Far-right TV pundit Éric Zemmour to run for French presidency

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Far-right TV pundit Éric Zemmour to run for French presidency
© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

Éric Zemmour, a controversial French far-right TV pundit who has convictions for inciting racial hatred, has declared he will run for president next spring, claiming he wants to “save” traditional France from “disappearing”.

In a 10-minute video posted on social media, Zemmour sat at a desk reading a speech in front of an old-fashioned microphone, designed to look like Charles de Gaulle’s famous June 1940 broadcast to Nazi-occupied France – provoking anger from the traditional Gaullist right.

To a Beethoven soundtrack, the video jumped to unexplained clips of rioting and CCTV footage of fights, as well as women with headscarves, Black men on the Métro, sports players taking the knee and prayers in the street. Zemmour said: “It’s no longer time to reform France, but to save it. That’s why I have decided to stand in the presidential election.”

Footage of the Palace of Versailles and clips of the films of Joan of Arc and Napoleon illustrated what Zemmour deemed the former glory of France. French media reported that at least one film company was investigating the legal issue of rights to use certain footage.

Zemmour, a former newspaper columnist who has no political party and no election experience, has been attacked by historians for claiming the Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Pétain saved French Jews rather than aiding 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 organisations have condemned his presence on the political scene. His latest trial on charges of incitement to racial hatred opened this month over a television appearance last year when he called unaccompanied child migrants “thieves, killers and rapists”.

Far-right TV pundit Éric Zemmour to run for French presidency
© Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images Éric Zemmour, shown on multiple screens, delivers a speech to announce his candidacy for the 2022 French presidential election.

His official announcement that he is joining the presidential race comes after widespread media coverage and a meteoric rise in opinion polls this autumn – when some showed he could make it to the final round against the president, Emmanuel Macron. But polls in recent weeks have shown his position beginning to slip.

A Harris Interactive poll of voting intentions published on Tuesday, which surveyed people before Zemmour confirmed his candidacy, showed him down three to four percentage points at about 13% for the first round of the presidential election in April.

Opinion surveys have shown that although he could take voters from the far-right Marine Le Pen and the traditional right Les Républicains party, he was considered by voters as not having presidential standing or competence. This weekend he was photographed giving the middle finger to a protester in Marseille, which led critics on the right to round on him for being impulsive.

On a recent tour to promote his latest book on the supposed decline of the nation, Zemmour claimed immigration and Islam would destroy the country and warned of a “war of races”. At book signings, he has argued that the “white, heterosexual male” was under threat from ethnic minorities and a so-called “gay lobby”.

Zemmour’s election announcement did not feature any concrete proposals or propositions – he has said he believes a president’s role is to give a “vision” and not get into fine details. He must still gather 500 signatures from elected officials in order to stand, as well as raise funding – both of which could prove difficult.

Fabien Roussel, the French Communist party’s presidential candidate said he would field a parliamentary resolution this week seeking to make it impossible for anyone convicted of inciting racial hatred to run for election.

The government spokesperson Gabriel Attal dismissed Zemmour as a kind of counterfeit Trump.

Sébastien Chenu, from Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party, which could lose voters to Zemmour, said: “We don’t see him bringing anything new.”

Zemmour’s announcement was deliberately made just before Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains begins a four-day internal party vote on Wednesday to choose its candidate for president.

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