A media base can propel a political career. After Donald Trump in the United States, Éric Zemmour is trying his luck in the French presidential election.
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A declared candidate since November 30, 2021, Éric Zemmour brought together the 1East March the 500 sponsorships of local elected officials and parliamentarians necessary to formalize his candidacy.
A career in the media
Aged 63, Zemmour first made a name for himself as a journalist in the political service of the Figaro.
He then participated, as a columnist, in various programs, including We are not in bed (France 2) and Facing the news (CNews).
Finally, he is the author of several essays and novels, including The first sex, French suicide and France has not said its last word.
For Julien Toureille, researcher in residence at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair and specialist in French elections, it is the construction of his brand in two types of images that explains his strong anchoring in public opinion.
“The first image is that of an intellectual, not always very rigorous in his use of figures and data, but who could fuel a certain reflection on France and the social and political issues within political currents that we qualify conservatives.”
“The second is that of polemicist, whether on CNews or, before that, as a columnist at We are not in bed. This image of a polemicist posed him as a rather skilful and formidable debater who does not hesitate to “attack” the dominant thought”, adds Julien Toureille.
A controversial polemicist
He was convicted of racial discrimination and incitement to racial hatred in 2011 and 2018, and several cases concerning him are still ongoing.
During the 2019 “right-wing convention”, a public meeting organized by relatives of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Éric Zemmour claims that French Muslims have gone from colonized to colonizers, and promotes the conspiracy theory of “ great replacement.
He was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 euros for insult and incitement to racial hatred on September 25, 2020. He nevertheless won his case on appeal on September 8, 2021. The prosecution recently appealed against this decision.
During a debate with Bernard Henri Lévy at Facing the newson CNews, Éric Zemmour explains to the latter that Marshal Pétain saved Jews during the Second World War.
Following the filing of a complaint challenging crimes against humanity, he found himself before the Paris Criminal Court and was released on February 4, 2021. The prosecution appealed this decision.
The essayist has also been accused of flouting the history of France to the advantage of his political ideas. “He would draw from his falsification the justification of his nationalist and hateful project for France”, advances the historian Renaud Metz in Release.
Several charges of assault and sexual harassment have been brought against him. Many testimonies were gathered in 2021 by the newspaper Mediapart and by the magazine Further investigation from France 2.
“A bit like Donald Trump, the various court cases do not seem to harm Zemmour politically, explains Julien Toureille. They can even serve him by reinforcing his image of a victim of the dominant elite that he likes to denounce. In other words, these cases are badges of honor and contribute to its populist dimension.”
Eric Zemmour’s program
Claiming Gaullism, Éric Zemmour’s program deals with themes linked to rurality or the greatness of France internationally and its position as a great intermediary power.
Other points nevertheless place it on the far right.
It proposes, among other things, to stop family reunification, to set up a system of forfeiture of nationality for criminals of foreign origin, to prohibit “any propaganda at school” and to lower the criminal majority to 16 years old.
It also proposes the ban on wearing the veil in all public places, strict control of Muslim worship on French territory and the non-retroactive ban on any first name that does not sound French.
A French child of Muslim origin could no longer be called Mohamed.
“Zemmour’s program, in particular his ambition for zero immigration or his conception of the role of women in society, places him very clearly on the far right, analyzes Julien Toureille. If he does not have the same sulphurous past as Jean-Marie Le Pen, he is clearly part of an ideological current which is more and more essential in the French political landscape.
Low chance of winning
While Emmanuel Macron is now around 28% of voting intentions in the first round in the latest OpinionWay poll, Éric Zemmour is positioned below 11%, well below Marine Le Pen (20%).
Jean-Luc Mélenchon oscillates between 14 and 15%, and Valérie Pécresse, between 9 and 11%.
In the second round, Emmanuel Macron wins in all scenarios and would even collect 65 and 67% of the votes, in the event that he is opposed to Zemmour, according to the most recent Ifop poll.
For Julien Toureille, beyond predictions on possible scores for Éric Zemmour, it is the reflection on who will guide the far right in France that is at stake.
“First of all, Ukraine neutralizes the campaign and prevents Zemmour from giving itself a second wind, despite Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s rallying to his campaign. Then, the key for the future, beyond Zemmour’s score, will be Marine Le Pen’s score, and her attitude during the ballots.
Julien Toureille adds that “if it [Le Pen] is as bad as in 2017, the movement of Zemmour and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen could capitalize on this new failure and possibly weaken his party. If she performs well, she will be able to reposition herself as the unavoidable leader of the far right”.