By Henry Srebrnik, [Moncton, NB] Times & Transcript
French presidential elections are held in two stages. If in the first round no candidate wins an absolute majority, the two leading candidates face one another in the second.
A new poll sees French right-wing pundit Eric Zemmour making it to the second round of the presidential election this coming April along with President Emmanuel Macron, confirming earlier polls that saw Zemmour overtaking far-right leader Marine Le Pen of the Rassemblement National (National Rally).
The chat show star, who has twice been convicted for inciting hatred, has dominated the French airwaves in recent months with provocative comments about Islam, immigrants and women.
Zemmour has now pulled ahead of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Rassemblement National (National Rally). A Harris Interactive poll, published Nov. 9, projected Zemmour winning 18-19 per cent of first-round votes, widening the gap over Le Pen, who slipped to 15-16 per cent. Macron remained in the lead, with an unchanged 23-24 per cent.
All this despite the fact that Zemmour does not lead or belong to a political party and has not even officially announced his candidacy. But that is not necessarily a hindrance.
Political parties have often been set up as the vehicles of a politician, and on two occasions during the postwar years it has led to the candidate’s election: Charles de Gaulle’s Rassemblement du Peuple Français (Rally of the French People) and Macron’s own La République en Marche (The Republic On The Move).
Zemmour wants to ban all immigration; he claims Muslims have “colonized” entire swaths of French cities; he considers France to be in a state of civil war with its Muslim population. Islam, for him, is by its nature a religion of terror.
He attacked ex-president Francois Hollande’s migration policy on Nov. 13 during commemorations marking the 2015 attacks by Islamic State on the Bataclan theatre and other locations in Paris, which left 130 people dead.
Zemmour is a proponent of the “great replacement” theory, which purports that the French establishment wants to eventually replace whites with non-European Muslims from Africa and the Middle East.
Of France’s estimated six million Muslims, close to 10 per cent of the population, he has argued they should “be given the choice between Islam and France.” He declared that he would ban all “non-French names,” like Muhammad.
Zemmour’s books, including his latest, La France n’a pas Dit Son Dernier Mot (France Hasn’t Had its Final Word), published this autumn, present a France facing decline, degeneration, and even national suicide by way of leftist ideology and the presence of large immigrant communities.
French universalism for Zemmour is an outgrowth of Christian universalism; and it is Catholicism that is the founding doctrine of the French nation.
This makes him a most unlikely flag-bearer for a far-right candidacy, because Zemmour is a Jew of Algerian ancestry, the son of observant Jews who fled Algeria in 1958 during that country’s war of independence.
Yet in his 2014 bestseller, Le Suicide Français (France’s Suicide), Zemmour asserted that the Vichy government of 1940-1944 that collaborated with the Nazis actually protected French Jews.
“Vichy protected French Jews and gave the foreign Jews,” Zemmour said in September on CNews, a right-wing television channel, suggesting that the wartime government of Marshal Philippe Pétain that sent more than 72,500 Jews to their deaths was not so bad after all.
Zemmour has also reopened the Dreyfus Affair, which rocked France from 1894 until its resolution in 1906, contending last year that the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jewish army officer falsely accused of treason, “was not evident.”
“He is dangerous, and he insults Jewish morality,” Bernard-Henri Lévy, a leading Jewish author and intellectual, said in an interview.
“There is a part of the Jewish community that sees in him the man who will resolve problems of security and violent Islamism,” Francis Kalifat, the president-elect of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (Council of Jewish Institutions in France), has remarked.
Why does Zemmour make such claims? For Zemmour there is only one France, one of eternal grandeur and glory. He thus despises any form of ethnic particularism and any claims to victimhood at the hands of the French nation.