France: Young conservative activists back Zemmour for president, with many of them from a party that openly condemns him

Among young conservative Republican activists, Eric Zemmour is seen as a star, but the leaders of the party want to keep their distance from the famed French commentator and author

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
Hard-right political talk-show star Eric Zemmour gestures as he talks during a meeting to promote his latest book "La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot" (France has not yet said its last word) in Versailles, west of Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Éric Zemmour, who still did not declare that he would run for the post of president in 2022, has surprised the nation with his strong performance in polls in recent weeks. The former CNews commentator made a big breakthrough when he won over part of the right-wing voters (around 17 percent).

His potential candidacy has taken France by storm, some of his biggest supporters are young activists from the rival center-right Les Republicans party, a party which could potentially suffer if Zemmour steps into the race. These activists want Zemmour to run as the party’s candidate, but there is little chance for success.

Young Republican activists are already working to keep the campaign alive, as the party must nominate its candidate in early December in a congressional vote, the 20 Minutes news portal wrote

“I discovered him more than ten years ago, with Laurent Ruquier on France 2. Then I watched him quite a bit on CNews. I found myself in his speech, he breathes new life into the law that has become conformist. Despite the media and political attacks, he remains direct in his thinking,” says Rudy, a 34-years-old Republican activist from Paris.

Zemmour, the son of Jewish Algerian immigrants, has been touring across France, drawing support for his book, but also his potential run for president.

“We have to stop these migrant flows,” Mr. Zemmour said this month to a standing-room-only crowd in Versailles, “because we are suffering an invasion unprecedented in history.”

Zemmour is seen as having outflanked his potential rival, Marine Le Pen, on the right. Le Pen has been accused of softening her stance on certain conservative issues. While Zemmour, for example, has routinely pointed to the Great Replacement in France and the West, which points out that White Europeans are being systematically replaced by foreign immigrants, Le Pen has shied away from the topic. Critics of Zemmour say that he could split the entire right-wing vote and hand the election to Macron.

Zemmour became known to the general public as a commentator in the “We Don’t Lie” program on France 2 between 2006 and 2011. From October 2019, he transferred to Paris Première, and his daily comments on CNews turned into a huge hit drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers, which the left-wing government of Emmanuel Macron increasingly saw as a threat. Zemmour was banned in September from his show on CNews under questionable circumstances by a government body.

Many conservatives, particularly young Republicans, want to see him run for president.

“We grew up with these cult phrases until we knew them by heart. We even recently had a bingo with his phrases. This is what we like about him, his straight speech that we do not find with other politicians,” adds David Attia, a 28-years-old Republican candidate in the municipal elections in 2020.

Zemmour’s clear-cut speech, his historical and literary references, his provocations draw a part of the right-wing youth who need a leader since the departure of Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Today, we lack high-level politicians. As Sarkozy says, Éric Zemmour is a sign of this emptiness and fills it. All the young right-wingers have read him, listened to him, and support Baptiste Laroche, a 24-year-old Parisian Republican activist who works on the quasi-candidate’s organizing team. Some may be embarrassed by his excesses, his provocations, well, but generally speaking, right-wing young people share his ideas. He is the intellectual of our generation,” continues Attia.

At the end of August, a hundred Republican activists and sympathizers signed a text to support him, believing that he was a “natural candidate of the right.” But in the leadership of the party, this will not pass.

“There is a lot of hypocrisy. Many executives in the party appreciated Zemmour before, but today, there is a form of fear about his dynamics. Since the departure of Laurent Wauquiez, the gap has widened between the base of activists and the center-right direction,” noted Matthieu Louves, 26-years-old former head of the Young Republicans of Gironde who was dismissed in early September.

Within the Republicans, some are embarrassed in the face of the emergence of Zemmour as they are pushed “to the extreme right.” But some recognize the attraction of the polemicist.

“He speaks to young people, it’s a real subject. He is radical. But young Republicans always lean more to the right (than the rest of the party), that’s how it is,” added an elected official close to Xavier Bertrand, who is seen as the leading contender in the party for president.

Guilhem Carayon, the president of the Young Republicans, acknowledged on Tuesday “that at least 6,000 to 7,000” members of his movement — out of 11,000 — showing “sympathy for Eric Zemmour.”

“Many began to follow politics through him, and he had the merit of expressing courageous convictions on identity or immigration in the media in the face of right-wing left-wing ideologues,” Carayon told 20 Minutes.

“A good polemicist does not necessarily make a good politician. It is not by rehabilitating Pétain or by making outrageous remarks about Muslims that we can reconcile the French,” adds the 22-year-old official.

Supporters of Zemour hope that after the Republicans congress, a big movement will emerge.

“Many young people are not enthusiastic about the Macron-compatible profile of the Republican candidates. When we learn the candidate nominated by the congress, we will see for whom the young people will come forward to campaign,” says Baptiste Laroche.

At the national level, Zemmour is still struggling to attract the young electorate. In the latest Harris Interactive poll published on Wednesday, only 7 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 12 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds say they are ready to vote for him, far from the 21 percent collected among those over 65.

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