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PARIS – The rise of French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has been meteoric. He gets a lot more prime-time TV slots and front pages than many of his rivals. It is also on the rise in the polls.
Last week, a poll showed that Zemmour was the first to overtake Marine Le Pen and get a runoff in the French elections next year. the Harris Interactive poll predicted that Zemmour would get 17 percent of the vote, compared with 15 percent for Le Pen and 24 percent for Emmanuel Macron. The poll is an outlier compared to POLITICO’s total of all available polls, which show Zemmour with 13 percent, behind Le Pen with 17 percent and Macron with 24 percent. Still, the Harris Interactive poll made headlines.
Zemmour is a polemical figure whose inflammatory rhetoric on immigration and Islam is accused of fueling divisions in France and undermining public debate ahead of the April elections. However, his supporters say he is a breath of fresh air in a society that is shaped by political correctness.
Meanwhile, Zemmour, convicted of incitement to hatred, dominates the news in France.
“He checkedmate the media. Just like Trump, “said Gaspard Gantzer, a former advisor to ex-President François Hollande. “Zemmour is very well known in a fragmented media landscape and has the edge, because those who make the most outrageous statements have an advantage today.”
The French Trump?
Trump and Zemmour have similar life stories and similar views. Trump received a lot of attention on Fox News and The Apprentice, while Zemmour made a name for himself on popular TV shows and around the clock news channels. Both make it a virtue not to be professional politicians.
Like Trump, Zemmour has cast the media landscape with a mix of excessive posing and the promise of a tough approach to immigration, one of the key issues of the election. Recently he proposed to reintroduce Catholic first names for children born in France to improve the integration of immigrants and announced that he is for it Deportation of all foreign “offenders”. ”
“The difference is that Donald Trump waged an anti-intellectual struggle and worked hard to show his contempt for intellectuals,” said left-wing sociologist Philippe Corcuff. “But in France a president needs an intellectual ointment. Emmanuel Macron promotes his closeness to the philosopher Paul Ricœur. While [Zemmour] wants to be seen as the intellectual Trump. ”
In all newsrooms in France, journalists cannot avoid the TV star, even if they don’t like him.
“I can’t believe what I hear at our editorial meetings,” said a French journalist who works for a leftist newspaper in Paris. “We are discussing immigration. It’s all about Zemmour and how are we going to react to him, ”she said.
“We barely cover the leftist candidates. We do what the left does every time and we push the far right up, ”the reporter said. “But at some point the extreme right will [win an election]. ”
“I feel like there is a dynamic between the media and the polls,” said a foreign reporter who was hired to write an article on Zemmour after the last poll. “They feed each other.”
According to media regulators Insulted, Zemmour got 16 airtime on TV or on the front page last month. That equates to over 11 hours of airtime compared to two hours for socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo and just over an hour for Le Pen, according to independent journalist Robin Andraca. Of course, Le Pen and Hidalgo have their own campaign calendars that need to be considered.
Ride the wave
It seems unlikely that things will change, at least in the short term.
According to Corcuff, journalists will struggle to stop the media dynamic surrounding Zemmour. “It’s the context that unbalances them,” he said, “when there’s an event, a terrorist attack, a series of bad polls, something out of the ordinary that distracts their attention. And the polls are changeable, a candidate is interesting because people talk about him. ”
This happened in the case of François Fillon, whose promising offer crashed in 2017 when he was involved in a fake job case involving his wife.
Zemmour has not yet officially confirmed his candidacy and the conservative Les Républicains have yet to agree on a candidate, making polls unpredictable. Six months before the first round of voting, most people are not quite ready for the election campaign. The proportion of undecided voters is also broad, most recently around 13 percent Elabe survey to 27 percent in a Ifop Fiducal Survey.
There is also evidence that Le Pen – who took the blows and did not give – will hit back, according to the daily L’Opinion. Based on previous comments on the “feminization” of society and allegations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, Zemmour has been accused of having a problem with women.
A current photo by Le Pen surrounded by female supporters suggests she knows exactly where to aim.