The Z Factor: Why Maverick Eric Zemmour is Making Early Running in French Presidential Race

© REUTERS / ERIC GAILLARDFar-right French commentator Eric Zemmour attends a meeting for the promotion of his new book "La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot" (France has not yet said its last word) in Nice, France, September 18, 2021.
Far-right French commentator Eric Zemmour attends a meeting for the promotion of his new book La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot (France has not yet said its last word) in Nice, France, September 18, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.10.2021
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Prior to 2017 the French president had been a candidate from either the Socialist Party or one of the Gaullist or neo-Gaullist parties. Emmanuel Macron broke the mould when he was the candidate of La République En Marche!, which had only been formed 12 months before the election.
A right-wing polemicist who wants to ban Muslim names like Mohammed is stealing a march on Marine Le Pen in the run-up to next spring’s French presidential elections.
Eric Zemmour, 63, is now the second favourite - behind President Emmanuel Macron - with many bookmakers for the race to the Elysees Palace.
Most elections during the Fifth Republic have been fought between a Socialist and a candidate from one of the main conservative parties, the UMP or RPR.
The exception was in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the right-wing Front National (FN), won fractionally more votes than the Socialist Lionel Jospin in the first round but was beaten by Jacques Chirac in the second round.
The UMP and RPR later merged to form Les Républicains, who have yet to decide who will be their candidate in April 2022.
In 2017, the moderate François Fillon of Les Républicains was pipped by Le Pen and the Socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, garnered only six percent of the vote and ended in fifth place.
It is not clear if Les Républicains will choose Zemmour as their candidate or whether he will try to make a run as an independent.
At the weekend Macron’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, claimed some of Zemmour’s views were "revisionism and traditional anti-Semitism" and should be “vomited.”
Zemmour hails from a Jewish-Berber family who came to France from Algeria shortly before his birth in 1958.
He has worked as a journalist and newspaper columnist for the conservative Le Figaro and is also a political essayist who claims the French media is dominated by left-wing journalists.
The BBC reported that, during a speech in the FN stronghold of Béziers, Zemmour said the French media was "a propaganda machine that hates France."
© AP PhotoThis Oct. 24, 1940 file photo shows German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, right, shaking hands with Head of State of Vichy France Marshall Philippe Petain, in occupied France.
This Oct. 24, 1940 file photo shows German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, right, shaking hands with Head of State of Vichy France Marshall Philippe Petain, in occupied France.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.10.2021
This Oct. 24, 1940 file photo shows German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, right, shaking hands with Head of State of Vichy France Marshall Philippe Petain, in occupied France.
Zemmour added: "Paid with your taxes, they constantly spit on you. They spit on French history and culture, and they spit on the French people, whom they want to see disappear.”
He says France is being "submerged" by migrants and wants parents to be forced to choose French first names.
He also lambasted France’s schools which he said were “infiltrated by Marxism, anti-racism and LGBT ideologies.”
One of Zemmour’s most controversial opinions is that the collaborator Marshal Pétain, who led the Vichy government in the south of France after the Nazis defeated the French Army in 1940, saved French Jews.
Mr Beaune said: "The myth of Pétain, the protector of the Jews, does not stand up to historical analysis for a second…Mr Zemmour is adorned with scandalous historical lies.”
Thousands of Jews were deported from Lyon and other Vichy towns and cities to the concentration camps in Germany and occupied Poland.
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