A crowded field on the right gives Macron a boost of confidence

French President Emmanuel Macron smiles during a joint press conference with Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in Zagreb, Croatia, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Croatia's government has approved the purchase of 12 used Rafale fighter jets from France worth about 1 billion euros to replace its aging fleet of Soviet-era aircraft and strengthen its air force amid lingering tensions in the Balkans. (Denis Lorovic/Pool Photo via AP)
By John Cody
7 Min Read

A busy weekend in France has given us three new official candidates on the right to challenge president Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 presidential elections, which means France has four altogether. However, given the fall-out rate in French politics due to sexual or corruption scandals, conservative France can count herself lucky if at least one of them will make into the April finale.

The French right has been fed on the staple diet of the National Rally’s Marine Le Pen’s patriotism and increasingly mild anti-immigration rhetoric for years, but she is facing three new firebrand challengers as the faces of re-awakening French nationalism.

French National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen attends a press conference with reporters in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (AP Photo)

First, Valerie Pécresse has been elected as the official candidate of the Republicans on Saturday, convincingly beating her second round rival Éric Ciotti with an over 30% majority. Ciotti, was perhaps the most right-wing of the five republican candidates, even though all of them have tried hard to convince their party that they are the ones to tackle out of control immigration and the anarchy of Muslim-dominated French suburbs.

Valerie Pecresse raises her arms at the Conservative party Les Republicains headquarters after being elected as the party’s presidential candidate, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021 in Paris. The head of the Paris region, Valerie Pecresse was facing a hardline lawmaker Eric Ciotti, left, in the final round of The Republicans’ primary. At right is party chief Christian Jacob. The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be held on April 10, 2022, and the second round on April 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

In the end, weighing up the national mood, Pécresse was given the green light to lead the Republicans into the elections, as history shows that during elections French voters back off from radical candidates at the last minute, even those who they might otherwise agree with. For this reason, many commentators agree that despite their disastrous performance during the 2017 elections, a Republican candidate would have the best chance of defeating Macron.

Pécresse’s nomination, however, was almost completely overshadowed by the Sunday mass rally of the right’s candidate, Éric Zemmour, who has given his first major speech as an official presidential candidate. During the big reveal, he announced that his new party’s name will be “Reconquete”, meaning reconquest, which is a reference to the struggle to liberate the Iberian Peninsula from under Islamic rule that ended in the 15th century with the win of Spain’s Christian rulers.

French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, waves after his first rally, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 in Villepinte, north of Paris. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

Without going into exact details of Zemmour’s speech that are widely available online, his plans for mass deportations, taking away dual citizenship, zero immigration would, with over ten million Muslims now inhabiting France, lead to somewhere between violent mass unrest and bloody civil war. Zemmour did not mince his words about his country’s membership in international organizations either, calling from a withdrawal from NATO and stressing that France’s survival cannot depend on international treaties or the good-will of European judges.

As highlighted in the beginning, the presidential candidates’ personal life and business interests will come under scrutiny before the elections, and in this Zemmour already has a head-start. The scandal over his affair with his 28 years old assistant, and his loss of self-control, when he flipped the bird at an Antifa protester the other week, have already saw him slip over ten points in comparison with his October high.

Furthermore, he might be right about the need for a political U-turn that would be nothing short of a reconquest if he were to restore France’s sovereignty and law-and-order in its parallel societies, but the question is, whether he can garner enough public support for such radical and risky plans.

French Les Republicains (LR) party member of parliament Eric Ciotti has joined the presidential election race as an independent. (David Niviere, Pool via AP)

Finally, the success of Valerie Pécresse, has given France a third, somewhat accidental new independent presidential candidate in the form of Eric Ciotti. After his unsuccessful bid to be the Republican’s official candidate, on Sunday, he has announced that he is still running as an independent, and named his political movement “To the right.” In his views, he is very close to Zemmour, thus it comes as no surprise that during his Sunday speech the leader of the Reconquest has messaged Ciotti, saying, “Your place is among us”.

In the unlikely scenario that all the right’s candidates will make it to the April elections unscathed, this would give Macron the chance to face a fragmented and, judging by the hostile language over the weekend, an internally divided right in 2022. A lot can and will happen until then, but a hot-headed Zemmour who is childishly showing all his cards, and a more mainstream Le Pen who has given up on her trademark views on Islam, might give Macron a chance to slip back into the Elysée Palace in 2022. One thing is certain though, France’s national pride and its willingness to fight for its sovereignty is reawakening, the question is, whether this is not too little, too late.

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