Who is Éric Zemmour, the right-wing candidate for president of France attacked at a rally

At a rally over the weekend, candidate was grabbed by the neck as he headed to the stage to speak

At a rally over the weekend, candidate was grabbed by the neck as he headed to the stage to speak| Photo: EFE/EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

The current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, will have as one of his opponents in the presidential election in April a candidate who has been compared by the international press to the American Donald Trump.

Éric Zemmour, a 63-year-old Jewish journalist from an Algerian family who has made a career in print, radio and TV journalism, launched his candidacy last week with a ten-minute YouTube video that could be summed up with the slogan “Do the Great France again”.

“When you’re walking down the street, you don’t recognize your city. When you’re watching television, you hear a strange and unknown language”, he says in the video, which brings a nostalgic vision of the French past, listing historical characters such as Joan of Arc, Louis XIV, Charles de Gaulle and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Zemmour defends the theory that immigration has nullified French identity (he has already declared that “Islam is incompatible with the French Republic”) and that there has been an awakening to this reality despite the pressure of “politically correct” – he says contrary to the Pleven Act of 1972, which deals with incitement to racial hatred, which he considers “liberticide” and based on which he has already been prosecuted and convicted.

“France was no longer France, and everyone realized that. Of course, they despised you. The powerful, the elite, the hypocrites, journalists, politicians, academics, sociologists, trade unionists, religious authorities said it was all false, that you were wrong. But you finally found out that they were fake, that they were wrong, that they were acting wrong,” says the journalist in the video.

In addition to the anti-system speech, Zemmour, who named his party the Reconquista, in a reference to the historical period in which Muslim rulers were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, has similarities with Trump also in the way he tries to articulate his candidacy in a solitary way, without the support of major political parties and godfathers, just like the American didn’t even start to win the Republican Party’s primaries.

“Trump managed to unite the working classes and the patriotic bourgeoisie. That’s what I’ve been dreaming of for 20 years”, he compared, in an interview with a French TV channel.

On Sunday (5), during a rally in Greater Paris where there was a clash between supporters and protesters against his candidacy, Zemmour was grabbed by the neck as he walked to the stage to speak. He still made the pronouncement, but his doctor later recommended a nine-day rest. Police arrested about 60 people and five were injured.

In the right field, Zemmour will dispute votes with Valérie Pécresse, of the Republicans (legend of former president Nicolas Sarkozy), and with Marine Le Pen, of the National Front, who lost to Macron in 2017.

Although it is not yet possible to say how far Zemmour can go (he came second in the polls, behind Macron, but a survey carried out just before his candidacy was confirmed showed that he was surpassed by Le Pen), the political scientist Pascal Perrineau told the New York Times that the “catastrophic vision” presented by the journalist manages to reflect “a deep-rooted French pessimism”.

“We are one of the most pessimistic countries in the world. Combine that with political class alienation, introverted nationalism and a defiant French inclination to turn the tables, and you have the Zemmour phenomenon,” he analyzed.

About Abhishek Pratap

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