Will French Ultra-Right Pundit Zemmour Run For President?

Barely 24 hours after French far-right leader Marine Le Pen took a hit in regional elections, posters of Eric Zemmour mysteriously began cropping up all over Paris.

Zemmour is a controversial television pundit, who makes the leader of the anti-immigration National Rally look soft. There’s been speculation for weeks about whether Zemmour would enter the race in April 2022. He hasn’t confirmed his intentions -- but his supporters have taken matters in their own hands, plastering placards of him wearing an enigmatic half-smile on walls across the country.

Will French Ultra-Right Pundit Zemmour Run For President?

While Zemmour and his supporters have often benefited from great media visibility, he’d get only 5.5% of votes in the presidential election, according to a recent poll by Ifop. That places him way behind Le Pen, who’s polling second behind President Emmanuel Macron.

For Macron, the centrist candidate, it would be good news if Zemmour were to run. It could help Le Pen appear more mainstream, but there’s also a risk that he steals away some of her hard-core base and she’s clearly worried.

Earlier this month, Le Pen -- who has previously defended what she called Zemmour’s right to freedom of speech -- said she told him he could weaken the “national camp” by dividing votes on the far-right and “help Emmanuel Macron win.”

Zemmour, 62, has been convicted three times for hate speech and inciting racial violence, and came close to being taken to court again in October when he said young migrants from Africa and the Middle East were all killers, rapists and thieves. He’s predicted that the growth of France’s Muslim community would eventually lead to civil war, and in one of his books, “The French Suicide,” he says France is no longer a sovereign nation.

His background -- he’s Jewish and of Algerian descent -- make his anti-semitic stance and attacks on immigrants all the more problematic.

The group responsible for the placards is known as Generation Z, and it’s asking French citizens to sign an online petition to convince Zemmour to announce his candidacy. “Everywhere in France, the same goal: Zemmour president,” it said on Twitter, where it has 7,000 followers. “This is just the beginning.”

Generation Z says it’s an independent organization and doesn’t speak on behalf of Zemmour.

Antoine Diers, spokesperson for the Friends of Zemmour association which collected donations that paid for the posters, says Zemmour can count on a variety of grassroots groups and that the mobilization of hundreds of volunteers across the country shows he has a real movement behind him.

“He’s ready to be a candidate,” Diers said. He expects Zemmour to announce his bid in September.

Zemmour didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Even before the results of the June 27 local election were announced, users on platforms traditionally associated with the far-right had begun debating the merits of Zemmour as a presidential candidate. Posts in English and French on the online forum 4Chan, which has previously been associated with supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump and the QAnon conspiracy, wondered if he could succeed where Le Pen was failing.

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