Éric Zemmour, a controversial French far-right television expert convicted of incitement to racial hatred, has said he will run for president next spring, claiming that he will “save” traditional France from “disappearing”.
In a 10-minute video posted on social media, Zemmour was sitting at a desk reading a speech in front of an old-fashioned microphone that was supposed to look like – and provoked – Charles de Gaulle’s famous June 1940 broadcast to Nazi-occupied France the wrath of the traditional Gaullist right.
To a Beethoven soundtrack, the video jumped to inexplicable excerpts from riots and CCTV footage of fights as well as women with headscarves, black men in the metro, athletes on their knees and prayers in the street. Zemmour said: “It is no longer time to reform France but to save it. That’s why I decided to run for the presidential election. ”
Photographs of the Palace of Versailles and excerpts from films by Joan of Arc and Napoleon illustrated what Zemmour described as the former glory of France. French media reported that at least one film company is investigating the legal issue of usage rights for certain film material.
Zemmour, a former newspaper columnist who has no political party and no electoral experience, has been attacked by historians for claiming that Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Pétain rescued French Jews rather than assisting their deportation to death camps. He has been described by the French Justice Minister as a dangerous racist and Holocaust denier. Human rights groups and anti-racism organizations have denounced its presence on the political scene. His most recent racial hatred trial opened this month during a television appearance last year when he described unaccompanied migrant minors as “thieves, murderers and rapists”.
His official announcement that he will join the presidential race comes after widespread media coverage and a meteoric surge in opinion polls this fall – when some showed he could make it to the finals against President Emmanuel Macron. But surveys over the past few weeks have shown that his position is beginning to slide.
A Harris Interactive polling intentions poll published Tuesday, interviewing people before Zemmour confirmed his candidacy, found that he fell three to four percentage points to about 13% for the first round of the April presidential election.
Opinion polls have shown that while he was able to take voters from the far-right Marine Le Pen and the traditional right-wing party Les Républicains, voters did not see him as presidential or decision-making. That weekend he was photographed showing the middle finger to a protester in Marseille, which led to right-wing critics rounding him for his impulsiveness.
On a recent tour to promote his latest book on the supposed decline of the nation, Zemmour claimed that immigration and Islam would destroy the country and warned of “racial war”. At book signing he argued that the “white, straight man” was threatened by ethnic minorities and a so-called “gay lobby”.
Zemmour’s election announcement made no specific suggestions or proposals – he said he believed the role of a president is to give a “vision” rather than go into detail. He still needs to collect 500 signatures from elected officials to run for office and raise funds – both of which could prove difficult.
French Communist Party’s presidential candidate Fabien Roussel said he would propose a parliamentary resolution this week to make it impossible for anyone convicted of incitement to racial hatred to stand for election.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal dismissed Zemmour as a kind of fake of Trump.
Sébastien Chenu of the right-wing National Rally of Le Pen, which could lose voters to Zemmour, said: “We don’t see him bringing anything new.”
Zemmour’s announcement was made aware just before Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains begins a four-day internal party vote on his candidate for president on Wednesday.