Do not cave in under the Americans, get rid of migrants, protect their hard workers – the slogans of some participants in the presidential elections in France are not distinguished by political correctness. They tried to strangle one of the candidates after the speech. Four months before the vote, a bitter struggle is unfolding on the right flank. Valerie Pécresse, Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour – some of them will compete with Emmanuel Macron. The incumbent president prefers to stay above the fray for now.
The possibility of self-nomination of the notorious publicist Erik Zemmur started talking in the summer. And at the end of November, he announced his intention to fight for the highest state post.
Zemmur is a controversial figure: some support him warmly, others hate him. Intellectual, polymath, polemicist of extreme right-wing views. Supporter of the most severe restrictions on migration, anti-Islamist, critic of neoliberalism, defender of national sovereignty and opponent of a united Europe. An adherent of traditional values with an arrogant attitude towards women. Zemmur is very harsh in his statements and does not intend to smooth things over. Twice the court found him guilty of inciting ethnic and racial hatred.
For Zemmour, the future of France is impossible without a sharp, radical turn in policy, a change in the social model of society. At the first pre-election rally, he announced the establishment of his own Reconquête movement, which should become the basis of the future party. “Reconquista” is a direct reference to the conquest by Christians of the lands of the Iberian Peninsula occupied by the Muslim Moors.
By the way, the event took place in the exhibition center of the Parisian suburb of Villepinte – this is the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, where there are many immigrants. One of the most criminalized areas in the country.
There were some incidents: representatives of the SOS Racisme association tried to stage a protest in the hall, and a scuffle ensued. In addition, a man from the crowd attacked Zemmur, tried to grab him by the throat. The guards quickly dragged him away.
In an hour and a half speech, the presidential contender, under the cheers of a crowd of thousands, promised “zero immigration”, the abolition of family reunification of refugees, the expulsion of all illegal immigrants, and the termination of social and medical benefits to visitors. He also explained that he was ready to take the helm to stop the impoverishment and loss of the country’s former power.
Zemmur is the most radical of the right-wing candidates. There is even an opinion that his nomination is a cunning move by the ruling elite, an attempt to knock the ground out from under the feet of Marine Le Pen. Indeed, Zemmour and Le Pen have a common electorate, and Marine ratings immediately plunged.
However, it is more likely that French business is behind Zemmour, in particular, the opponent of Emmanuel Macron, billionaire Vincent Bollore.
Le Pen is no longer extreme right
Prior to that, the main and practically the only real rival of Macron was considered the leader of the “National Association” Marine Le Pen. For her, this is already the third presidential campaign: in 2012, she took third place with 18 percent of the vote – lost to François Hollande (29) and Nicolas Sarkozy (27), and in 2017 she went to the second round, where she lost to Macron with a score of 34 : 66.
Le Pen’s party is called the ultra-right by inertia, although in fact this has long been no longer the case. Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, was a radical, to some extent marginal politician. He indulged in racist and anti-Semitic remarks. Since 2011, when Le Pen Sr. retired, his daughter was engaged in “de-demonization” of the “National Front”, distancing herself from the past and changing the party image so that labels would peel off. Therefore, the name was changed.
Although Marin positions herself as a non-systemic politician, she is much more restrained than her parent. She has repeatedly emphasized that she does not approve of the scandalous statements of her father and adheres to much more moderate views. Her program: protection of sovereignty, limiting migration, upholding traditional values and interests of “hard workers”.
In the summer, she said that she was not afraid of Zemmur and believed in her voter. “I am only afraid that his statements, often extremely radical, which I do not share, may be confused with mine and my project will become a victim of this caricature,” explained the head of the National Association.
Polls show that Zemmur is quite capable of competing with Le Pen, and on this field there is a serious struggle. Moreover, it is impossible to go over into open confrontation, because the votes cast for the opponent can be very helpful in the second round.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Valerie Pécresse rushed into the race. Not being the favorite at the party’s congress, she made her way to the second round of internal voting and then confidently gained the upper hand, gaining the right to run for president.
Against the background of Zemmour and Le Pen, Pécresse is undoubtedly the most moderate (therefore, her rivals contemptuously send her to the macronists). From the establishment: a graduate of the National Sc-hool of Administration (the forge of cadres of the Fre-nch political elite), career, respectable politician.
Pécresse was elected to parliament three times; under Nicolas Sarkozy, she served as minister of higher education, minister of budget. Since 2015, he has been the head of the Ile-de-France, a metropolitan region. Unlike competitors on the right, Pécresse is in favor of a strong European Union. A supporter of political liberalism, in matters of migration, taking into account the agenda, she adheres to a restrictive approach. She describes herself as “two-thirds Merkel, one-Thatcher.”
Not so long ago, it was hard to believe in the possible success of the Republican candidate, even despite the good result in the regional elections – the blow to the party after the scandal with François Fillon was too heavy. Many believed that without a leader, the right would be bogged down in internal party squabbles. However, Pecresse, it seems, is aware of this danger, so he meets with colleagues who lost to her in the primaries, and, perhaps, will still be able to unite the entire party family around him.
Another nuance: suppose Le Pen or Zemmour win in the first round, but in the second against Macron it will be very difficult for them. Old accusations will immediately fly to the candidates: fascist, racist and so on. The so-called “republican front” will be formed – unification against one enemy, voting not for, but against – this has already happened.
It is easier for the representative of the “Republicans” in this regard. This is confirmed by a poll conducted by Elabe on December 6-7 at the request of the BFM TV channel: Pecresse can defeat Macron with a score of 52:48 in the second round. True, we still need to make it to the finals.
The left is in the second league, and Macron is above everyone
The left has a much more modest perspective. More than the rest, the rating of the leader of the “Unruly France” Jean-Luc Melanchon – about eight percent. But this is twice as bad as his own result in the last elections (almost 20 percent). The candidate from the Europe – Ecology – Greens party, Yannick Jadot, will not get even seven.
Some hopes were pinned on the Socialist Party candidate, Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. However, its rating hovers around three to five percent – a complete failure for the political organization that recently ruled the country.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, Hidalgo urged the left to hold general primaries and nominate a common candidate. They did not agree: the contradictions on the left flank are too strong, no one wants to concede.
“If we use a sports analogy, we (the left) are playing in the second league with the risk of falling into the third” – this is how Socialist Senator Patrick Kanner describes the situation.
And Macron at this time simply leads the state. He has not yet announced his decision to run for office. But there is no doubt that he will go to the second five-year plan. There is every chance for re-election: the crisis of “yellow vests” is over, the actions of the authorities associated with the pandemic are generally approved by people, and the vaccination campaign was recognized as successful.
In addition, since January 1, France is the EU presidency. Very handy for Macron. So, on Thursday, he announced that an extraordinary EU summit would be held in Paris on March 10-11. This is exactly one month before the elections. A great reason to show yourself as a leader, other candidates can only dream of this.
Finally, while the rivals are sorting out among themselves, Macron keeps above the fight, having the opportunity to adjust his policy and program at the right time. In addition, if he officially joins the campaign, the media will carefully monitor his outings to the public, counting every minute, since the law requires parity between candidates. And it is not easy to prove that this is not a party meeting, but a working trip. Most likely, Macron will hold out to the last. One thing is clear: the elections will be held in two rounds. According to opinion polls, the current president is in the lead: 25 percent of voters are ready to support him.
However, in France one can never exclude a loud scandal that could shake up the entire political alignment.
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