Éric Zemmour (Montreuil, 63 years old) has the penetrating gaze of those who are possessed by an idea and believe that their time has finally come.
“The French must fight to defend France as we know it: what is at stake is civilization, the replacement of a people,” the far-right polemicist who, with his possible candidacy for the Elysee Palace, declared to MRT turned the politics of his country upside down. And he adds: “A war of civilizations is being waged on our soil. If we continue, we will go to civil war ”.
It is Monday, October 5, after midnight and Zemmour is in a dressing room at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, surrounded by his closest circle – his court advisor, his communication adviser, his bodyguards – and exhausted after another night of bathing. of masses. He has debated for more than two hours with Michel Onfray, a popular philosopher coming from the acratic left who now converges with the nationalists on the other shore. Afterwards, he has spent more than two hours signing copies of his latest book, France has not said its last word (France has not said its last word), a title that sounds like a French version of Trumpian Make America great again (May America be great again).
“¡Zemmour, President! ”Hundreds of people were crying out a few hours earlier when Zemmour arrived, surrounded by spotlights and television cameras, in the room where he was about to sign books. Then they sang La Marseillaise a capella. For a few weeks now, the scene – the crowds of supporters, the queues to sign, the swarm of journalists – has been repeating itself wherever it goes: Nice, Toulon, Lille … And that, officially, is not yet a candidate. But as if it were.
A month ago, before starting the promotional tour of the book, Zemmour did not appear in the polls, or hovered around 5% in expectation of a vote. Now he has a chance of being the second most voted candidate in the first round and, therefore, qualify for the second.
A Harris Institute poll this week places him in second place for the first time, with 17-18% of the vote, ahead of Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Regrouping (RN) party. The current president, the centrist Emmanuel Macron, would get between 24 and 27% of the vote, an optimal position to be re-elected whoever his rival was.
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Zemmour, the son of Jews from Algeria who came to France in the 1950s and raised in the working-class suburbs of Paris, would not be just any candidate. The courts have convicted him of inciting racial and religious discrimination. The Superior Audiovisual Council sanctioned the CNews television channel, owned by the multinational Vivendi, a few months ago after Zemmour described the migrant minors as “thieves, murderers, rapists” in the daily gathering that until September hosted their tirades.
If the polling trend is confirmed, it could be the end of Le Pen, whose effort to moderate has left the most radical flank empty for someone like Zemmour to occupy. Its success would also threaten to dynamite the traditional right, that of Los Republicanos (LR), the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, today without a leader and divided between a moderate wing that is in tune with Macron, and another that is seduced by Zemmour . He dreams of being the candidate who brings together what he calls the “patriotic right”.
It has no program, no party. He himself admits that everything has gone so fast that he is not yet in a position to truly launch the campaign. “Many French people were waiting for this speech, to be told about France, to be told what they feel,” he explained, before signing, to the crowd of journalists who awaited him. “In other words, the country is in danger of death.”
The core of zemmourismThe idea that owns it is that France is in decline and is plummeting into the abyss. Blame it on the alleged alliance between indigenous economic, political and cultural elites, and Muslim immigrants and their descendants. The foreign enemy and the interior: a classic.
Zemmour does not hide his ideology. In his best-selling essays, articles or television interventions – until a few weeks ago he appeared daily on CNews, a privileged platform to spread his message, and wrote in the moderate conservative newspaper Le Figaro-, enjoy provoking and crossing limits that no one else would dare to cross. Not Le Pen.
Zemmour claims, for example, the figure of Marshal Philippe Pétain, leader of France who during World War II collaborated with Hitler’s Germany and participated in the deportation of Jews to the death camps. He assures that Islam is incompatible with France. He defends the racist theory of the great replacement of the indigenous population by Muslim foreigners, coined by the writer Renaud Camus and that white supremacists in New Zealand and the United States have cited as inspiration for their attacks.
In his book, which has been self-published and of which he has already sold more than 140,000 copies, Zemmour proposes to prohibit baptizing those born in France with Muslim names or that are not of French tradition. And he describes a France of schools “besieged by students, mostly Maghreb and Africans, increasingly numerous, and increasingly rebellious against learning and more violent”, and peoples subjected to foreigners who “steal, rape, loot, torture, kill ”.
When Zemmour looks at France, he hates what he sees. It is a country populated by communities that hate each other, in moral and physical ruin, the same sinister country of Michel Houellebecq’s novels, but without his literary talent or the ambiguities of the novel genre. The France he loves is that of his childhood.
“I hate what France is becoming and the risk France is experiencing: dying”, in her dressing room. “And I do not defend an imaginary France: I defend France.”
There is something of Donald Trump in Zemmour: his way of breaking the codes of politics, the fascination that the media has for him, the nostalgia for the country that never existed. But Zemmour is a compulsive reader who truffles every speech with pedantic quotes from half-forgotten authors and mentions of remote historical events. His after-dinner erudition, in a country like France where culture is still endowed with prestige, gives him, for his supporters, an aura of respectability. What the messages on the social network Twitter were for Trump, for Zemmour are the books.
He is not in a hurry. You feel at the top of the universe. It is the absolute protagonist of political news. It has placed immigration at the center of the debate. At the same time, this married man with three children lives a “love story”- as described in English by one of his advisers – with his court advisor, 29-year-old senior civil servant Sarah Knafo. In the next few days or weeks you must take the step and make the candidacy official. Nobody knows if the phenomenon will last or if the bubble will be short-lived.
“This is not a campaign,” Knafo tells us, in Spanish, as he hurriedly walks with the entourage through the corridors of the Palace of Congress in Paris. “It’s a pre-campaign.”
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