French election: Voters explain support for Eric Zemmour
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On Sunday, France goes to the polls, with the far-right Mr Zemmour hoping to make the second round of the French Presidential election. He is campaigning on promises of a hard-line approach to Islam, immigration and security, and threatened to upend the French election after he threw his hat into the ring last year. However, while the journalist and commentator still draws sizable support from voters, his popularity has dwindled, with a consensus of polls suggesting a second round face off will be between incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and National Rally’s Marine Le Pen.
Politico’s Poll of Polls says Mr Macron is expected to get 27 percent of the vote compared to Ms Le Pen’s 22 percent, while Mr Zemmour is in fourth place and projected to receive just ten percent.
Mr Zemmour has attracted much attention for his campaign’s explosive rhetoric.
He has pledged to deport all immigrants who are unemployed for at least six months, while limiting asylum to just 100 people a year.
Mr Zemmour also wants to end the right to automatic French citizenship for children born in France to immigrant parents.
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Meanwhile, he claims “Islam is not compatible with France”, and has proposed to ban headscarves in public spaces, prevent parents from naming their child Mohammed, and impose strict control on imams.
Such proposals will come as little surprise to those familiar with Mr Zemmour’s career as a far-right broadcaster and political commentator.
His 2014 best-seller book ‘The French Suicide: The Forty Years That Defeated France’, argues that since Charles de Gaulle resigned from the presidency in 1969, France has suffered a moral and economic collapse.
Within the book, Mr Zemmour made a number of troubling and outlandish assertion that the about France’s Nazi occupation, when the country’s administration, led by Field Marshal Philippe Pétain, worked alongside the Nazis.
France’s Vichy Government deported 76,000 Jews to German concentration camps — all of whom were killed.
Another 14,000 Jews died in concentration camps in France.
But Mr Zemmour leaped to the Vichy leadership’s defence, claiming that the surviving 75 percent of the country’s Jews were “saved by the strategy of Philippe Pétain and [wartime Prime Minister] Pierre Laval in the face of German demands.”
He added that the Vichy rule specifically “sacrificed foreign Jews (living in France) in order to save French Jews.”
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While Mr Zemmour didn’t praise Pétain and Laval, he savaged the so-called “orthodoxy” of French opinion and insisted that his readers understand that there is a “difference between morality and political efficiency”.
Mr Zemmour was also scathing of US historian Robert Paxton, who’s influential 1972 book ‘Vichy France: Old Guard And New Order’ revealed the extent with which the French collaborated with the Germans.
The far-right commentator, who himself is the son of Algerian Jewish immigrants, sarcastically dismissed Mr Paxton as “our good master,” adding that the historian is “revered by the political class” and “the Paxtonian glory is admired unanimously”.
He added that as a result of Mr Paxton’s “official truth” the French had been “caricatured with the features of infamous bastards, anti-Semites and informers.”
However, when contacted by Rue89, Mr Paxton hit back at Mr Zemmour’s “empty arguments”.
The academic said: “It’s absurd to argue that Vichy sought to protect French Jews.
“Vichy’s anti-Jewish laws of 1940-1942 attacked all Jews living in France including those with French nationality.
“Their removal from public service, their exclusion from universities, the ‘Aryanisation’ of their property, were targeted at all Jews, French or not.”
Mr Paxton added that the removal of foreign Jews first was a German decision and that the Vichy regime clearly understood that “we’ll take the foreign ones first, but understand that we will take the French Jews later on.”
He said: “There is no reason at all for me to alter my conviction that Vichy committed terrible acts against all Jews, including those of French nationality.”
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