Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

In France, A Most Unlikely Presidential Candidate

 By Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottown, PEI] Guardian

Polls in France have identified a new potential candidate who could break through in next April’s presidential election. The latest surveys show that the French columnist and journalist for Le Figaro, Eric Zemmour, is shaking up the race before it's even begun by taking up all the political energy on the right.

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.

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.

If the election were held now, the run-off would include not Le Pen but Zemmour against President Emmanuel Macron.

He is the only right-wing candidate to win the sympathies of two groups that have been split between the Rassemblement National and the liberal-conservative Les Républicains (the Republicans) so far, gathering support both among peripheral classes who had been voting for Le Pen, and the conservative bourgeoisie, which has until now voted for Les Républicains.

His new book La France n’a pas Dit son Dernier Mot (France Hasn’t Said its Final Word) was published recently and serves as his manifesto. A confirmed nationalist, he states that “one must choose the side on which one will fight in the clash of civilizations that is taking place on our soil.”

Zemmour comes from a family of Algerian Jews – not people one expects to support the far right. His father, born in Algeria, admired Charles de Gaulle, and, even though the general had separated Algeria from France, he voted for him with conviction.

Zemmour confesses that he had always regarded the fact that Algeria had been conquered by France, in consequence of which he had been incorporated into the French nation, as “an enormous privilege.”

That is why he watched with such dismay, he writes, how the French suburbs, the banlieu, once full of those who understood the privilege of being French, were changing. Decades of immigration have transformed beyond recognition familiar places where Zemmour grew up. “They ceased to be France,” he maintains.

He is a fervent enemy of the European Union. The Single European Act of 1986, initiated the processes of deindustrialization and relocation that left masses of immigrants unemployed, Zemmour insists, worsening their situation and increasing the tensions between them and the society that received them.

Liberal ideology, according to Zemmour, is one of the major causes of the anomie into which France is descending. For him, protectionism is the only healthy economic policy.

In Zemmour’s view, the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, creating the modern European Union, was when France “said goodbye” to sovereignty, and democracy became largely a façade. A new political divide was born: the political establishment, the media, and the artistic and financial elites, the winners of globalization on one side; on the other its forgotten losers.

The 2005 referendum on the European Constitution sealed the fate of France, for Zemmour. The voters rejected the European Constitution, and the “no” side won. But they were not listened to. President Nicolas Sarkozy would later adopt the Lisbon Treaty without asking the French for their opinion. It was, he maintains, the last nail driven into the coffin of French democracy.

Zammour  sees the European Union as the ultimate expression of the oligarchic tendencies of an elite full of contempt for its own people. It is governed by dignitaries who have not been elected in any way, by officials who feel accountable to no one.

On Islam, Zemmour is uwavering in his view that there is an irremediable clash between French and Islamic civilizations. At a recent rally in the small southern town of Béziers, Zemmour told his audience that France is being “submerged” by migrants, and parents should be forced to give their children “French names.”

As for the French media, he dismissed them as “a propaganda machine” that hates France. “They spit on French history and culture, and they spit on the French people, whom they want to see disappear.” The mayor of Béziers, Robert Ménard, is politically close to Marine Le Pen and is pressing her to join forces with Zemmour to defeat Macron.

Should this man retain the popularity he now seems to enjoy, 2022 could become a very important year for France. However, unlike during earlier crises in France’s history, there seems no hint that the Fifth Republic itself is in any danger.

During the last years of the Third or Fourth Republics, insurgent movements on the right attacked their very constitutional foundations. But Zemmour (and Le Pen) claim they are defenders of the current constitution, not its subversives.



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