France: Le Pen and Zemmour deliver long-distance duel

Status: 05.02.2022 9:20 p.m

Two right-wing presidential candidates – two campaign events on the same day. Marine Le Pen wooed voters in Reims, Éric Zemmour in Lille. In polls, they are currently almost level.

Right-wing politician Marine Le Pen and her far-right competitor Eric Zemmour fought a long-distance duel a good two months before the French presidential elections. The two contenders for the office of head of state each appeared in front of thousands of supporters in northern France and swore them to the decisive phase of the election campaign.

In his speech in Lille, the publicist Zemmour, who has been convicted several times for racist statements, railed against the “major population exchange” allegedly financed by France and involving a massive Islamization of the country. He gave the example of the northern French city of Roubaix, which he described as “Afghanistan two hours from Paris”. France disappears under the shocked eyes of the French, said the right-wing extremist.

Eric Zemmour is still at the beginning of his political career, but he is now a real competitor for Le Pen.

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As president, he would abolish social benefits for foreigners, only grant asylum to a few dozen people a year, and in this way also strengthen the purchasing power of the French. According to the responsible prefecture, around 1,100 people protested against Zemmour’s appearance in Lille.

Both rail against immigration

Le Pen struck a similar tone in her speech in Reims: She wanted to protect the French against the “immigration flood”. Uncontrolled immigration is turning parts of the country into “non-France zones”. President Emmanuel Macron has run down the country financially, contributed to the division of society and is arrogant and depressing.

The two election campaign appearances at the same time in northern France are no coincidence, but clearly competing events. Zemmour aims to weaken Le Pen. And in fact, he could be dangerous to her in the election. He has already poached several heads of their Rassemblement National party and is courting similar voters.

It was in Reims t that Le Pen held her first major campaign meeting. Their core constituency is particularly large here.

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Le Pen’s attempt at demarcation

In the meantime, Le Pen has softened her tone and her election platform somewhat so that traditionally conservative French people can also vote for her. Zemmour, on the other hand, is provocative with sharp rhetoric. The Rassemblement National chairperson accuses him of dividing the country and trying to distance himself: “Eric Zemmour is an ideologue. Ideas are more important to him than people. He’s trying to turn the important issue of immigration into a crusade Kind of religious war that I don’t want to get involved in”. However, many of their previous supporters are drawn to precisely this provocative Crusade rhetoric.

Le Pen’s own niece and right-wing icon, Marion Maréchal, publicly toyed with the idea of ​​joining Zemmour and his newly formed party Reconquête! to connect. And even her campaign manager Nicolas Bay didn’t want to commit to being part of Le Pen’s team in four weeks.

A poll on Saturday saw Zemmour level with Le Pen with 14 percent of the vote, just behind conservative Valérie Pécresse.

With information from Julia Borutta, ARD Studio Paris

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