Zemmour’s ‘threat to Le Pen’ could change France’s far-right: ‘Force to be reckoned with’

France: Commentator discusses Eric Zemmour’s Frexit views

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When Mr Zemmour announced his candidacy for the French election in November, many polls had him vying against Ms Le Pen for second place. As recently as February some had tipped the far-right pundit to take on incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the second round of voting. However, Mr Zemmour’s support has since dwindled, in part due to his past endorsements of Vladimir Putin, with several polls now projecting the far-right pundit to finish in fourth place taking just nine percent of the vote.

Mr Zemmour gained notoriety in France as a controversial political journalist, with his appearances on conservative news channel C-News often drawing in a million viewers.

He popularised a debunked conspiracy theory called ‘The Great Replacement’ claiming white Europeans are being replaced by Muslims from Africa and the Middle East. 

In turn, Mr Zemmour has campaigned on a hard-line approach to immigration, pledging a program of ‘re-mitigation’ that would see a million foreigners deported from France within five years.

Elizabeth Carter, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire, previously claimed that Mr Zemmour would pose a threat to Ms Le Pen by taking votes from her far-right base.

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While her comments came in November of last year and Mr Zemmour’s support has since declined, the professor’s analysis could prove to be the beginning of a wider trend for France’s far-right France. 

Speaking to Express.co.uk last year Prof Carter said: “I think that he is a force to be reckoned with and he should be getting some attention. 

“But he’s certainly getting a lot of attention because of his personality, his style, but he’s really a threat to Marine Le Pen. 

“Without Zemmour I would say for the second round it’s Le Pen and Macron. With Zemmour this becomes much more complicated. 

“It appears as though he could be taking some votes mostly from the National Rally.”

In November, the acid tongued Mr Zemmour — who has two convictions of hate speech — announced his manifesto in a nine minute YouTube video. 

He said that if granted the keys to the Élysée Palace, he would send immigrants “who “do not assimilate” back to their country of origin, and wants to ban people from giving their children “foreign” names such as Mohammed.

Mr Zemmour also said Islam was “not compatible with France,” adding he had joined the race “so that our daughters don’t have to wear headscarves and our sons don’t have to be submissive”.

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On the economy, the pundit also promised to cut taxes on low salaries and pensions to boost net income, a move that would be financed by scrapping foreigners’ welfare benefits.

While Mr Zemmour threatened to upend the French election when he threw his hat into the ring last year, his ratings have now dropped considerably while his rival, Ms Le Pen, has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent weeks.

Politico is projecting the second round to be contested between Mr Macron, who is polling at 27 percent, and Ms Le Pen, who is five points behind but gaining on the President.

Prof Carter claimed that Zemmour making the second round would boost Mr Macron’s hopes of a second term as President.

Ms Le Pen, however, would be more likely to split the vote, according to the academic. 

She said: “Maybe Zemmour would be a bit better for Macron than Le Pen. Le Pen would more legitimately split that vote. 

“I also think that the left would be so offended by Zemmour that they would be more likely to come out and support Macron holding their noses, just as people did for [Jacques] Chirac in 2002. 

“So I think a Zemmour victory in the first round would be depressing for France as a whole and I think a lot of people within France and beyond France would judge that negatively.

“But I think in the end it may actually be a more solid victory at the end of the day for Macron. 

“The left, a few years ago, would be really offended by Le Pen, but as she’s softened her views on the EU, and in general shifted more towards the centre, maybe the left will be less likely to go to the poll in the second round to vote against her.”

Ms Le Pen has tried to sanitise her party’s image in the past year, and has softened her stance on key policies such as Frexit.

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