French far-right pundit Zemmour launches presidential bid

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This photograph taken on November 30, 2021, shows screens before French far-right media pundit Eric Zemmour announces his candidacy for the 2022 Presidential election in a video broadcast on social media, in Paris. (Photo: AFP)
PARIS — French far-right pundit Eric Zemmour announced on Tuesday that he will run for president in next year’s election, staking his claim in a video peppered with anti-immigrant rhetoric and warnings France must be saved from decline. اضافة اعلان

Zemmour, 63, is the most stridently anti-Islam and anti-migrant of the challengers seeking to unseat President Emmanuel Macron in the April 2022 vote.

His formal entry into the race — anticipated for weeks — adds another element on the far-right to the campaign, alongside its traditional leader Marine Le Pen. But it remains to be seen if he will maintain the momentum of recent weeks.

He said he had joined the race “so that our daughters don’t have to wear headscarves and our sons don’t have to be submissive.”

The former TV commentator made his announcement in a YouTube video, which showed him sitting at a desk reading his speech into an old-style microphone, an image reminiscent of General De Gaulle’s famous 1940 call to the French to join the French Resistance against Nazi Germany.

Accusing Macron of failing to deliver on his promise of change, Zemmour, who has been nicknamed the “French Trump” said: “It is no longer the time to reform France, but to save it.”

“That’s why I have decided to stand in the presidential election.”

‘Foreigners in your country’ 

In the nine-minute YouTube video, he warned that the France “of Joan of Arc and Louis XIV” and “of Notre-Dame and village churches was disappearing”, he said.

“You feel like foreigners in your own country,” he told voters in the speech, which was interspersed with images depicting a country beset by violence and social unrest contrasted with a more glorious past.

“Immigration is not the cause of all our problems but it aggravates them all,” he declared.

He added that, if elected, he would banish gender studies from French schools, slash the public debt and win back France’s sovereignty “from European technocrats and judges”.

The son of Algerian Jewish parents who migrated to France, Zemmour aims to outshine National Rally leader Le Pen in next April’s election to set up a second-round duel against Macron.

Besides Le Pen, he also faces competition on the right from the center-right Republicans, who will choose this weekend among five candidates running in a party primary.

Zemmour is due to hold his first official campaign meeting on Sunday morning in Paris.

Anti-fascism activists and unions had pledged to mark the occasion with a “silence Zemmour” protest.

‘Growing importance’ 

Zemmour is one of France’s best-known commentators, making his name by warning in best-selling books about the “colonization” of the country by Muslims, whose religion he views as “incompatible” with French values.

Acid-tongued, intense, and with two convictions for hate speech, he wants to send immigrants who “do not assimilate” back to their country of origin and ban French people from giving their children foreign-sounding first names, such as Mohammed.

Opinion polls in September and October briefly showed him as being the best-placed candidate to topple Macron, who has yet to declare his bid for a second term but is widely expected to do so early next year.

But Zemmour’s momentum appeared to fizzle in recent weeks.

The latest survey put him third in the first round of the election at 14-to-15 percent, behind Macron and Le Pen. Analysts say it is Le Pen who could benefit from his entry by making her look more reasonable.

Political scientist Marcel Gauchet said Zemmour’s rhetoric made Le Pen appear “like a normal candidate” and that his decision to campaign almost entirely on immigration showed “the growing political importance” of the issue.
A photograph of him giving a middle finger with the comment “Real deep!” to a protester during a trip to Marseille was seized on by opponents as a sign his campaign was imploding.

Celebrity magazine Closer also reported last week that the married father-of-three was expecting a baby with his 28-year-old chief adviser Sarah Knafo — which he denounced as an invasion of privacy, but did not deny. 

The exact line-up of the presidential contest will become clearer when ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans chose their candidate. 

On Tuesday evening, the five contenders, who include former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, hard-right MP Eric Ciotti, former minister Xavier Bertrand, and Paris region chief Valerie Pecresse, will go head-to-head in the last of four televised debates.

Analysts say the outcome is wide open.

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