Far-right French pundit Eric Zemmour announced on Tuesday that he will run for president in next year’s election, voicing his claim in a video peppered with anti-immigrant rhetoric and warnings that France must save itself from decline.
Zemmour, 63, is the most stridently anti-Islamic and anti-migrant of the challengers seeking to topple President Emmanuel Macron in the April 2022 vote.
His formal entry into the race, anticipated for weeks, adds another far-right element to the campaign, along with his traditional leader Marine Le Pen. But it remains to be seen whether it will maintain the momentum of recent weeks.
He said that he had joined the race “so that our daughters do not have to wear a veil and our sons do not have to be submissive.”
>> Read more: How France’s ‘Great Replacement’ Theory Conquered the World Far Right
The former television commentator made his announcement in a YouTube video, which showed him sitting at a desk reading his speech into an old-fashioned microphone, an image reminiscent of General de Gaulle’s famous 1940 call to the French to join forces. the Resistance against Nazi Germany.
After accusing Macron of failing to deliver on his promise of change, Zemmour, dubbed the “French Trump,” said: “This is no longer the time to reform France, but to save it.”
“That is why I have decided to run for the presidential elections.”
‘Foreigners in your country’
In the nine-minute YouTube video, he warned that the France “of Joan of Arc and Louis XIV” and “of Notre-Dame and the town’s churches” was disappearing, “he said.
“You feel like a foreigner in your own country,” he told voters in the speech, which is interspersed with images of a country beset by violence and social unrest set against a more glorious past.
“Immigration is not the cause of all our problems but it exacerbates them all,” he declared.
He added that, if elected, he would banish gender studies from French schools, cut public debt and regain France’s sovereignty “from European technocrats and judges.”
Zemmour, the son of Algerian Jewish parents who emigrated to France, aims to outshine the leader of the National Rally (RN), Le Pen, in the upcoming April elections to stage a second-round duel against Macron.
In addition to Le Pen, he also faces competition from the right from center-right Republicans (LR), who will choose this weekend from five candidates running in the party’s primaries.
Zemmour is scheduled to hold his first official campaign meeting on Sunday morning in Paris.
Anti-fascist activists and unions had pledged to mark the occasion with a “Zemmour silence” protest.
Zemmour is one of France’s best-known commentators, and is famous for warning in best-selling books about the “colonization” of the country by Muslims, whose religion he considers “incompatible” with French values.
Acid, intense and with two convictions for hate speech, he wants to send immigrants who “do not assimilate” to their country of origin and prohibit the French from giving their children foreign-sounding first names, such as Mohammed.
Opinion polls in September and October briefly showed him the best-positioned candidate to topple Macron, who has yet to declare his candidacy for a second term but is expected to do so early next year.
But Zemmour’s momentum seemed to wane in recent weeks.
The latest poll placed him in third place in the first round of the elections with 14 to 15 percent, behind Macron and Le Pen. Analysts say it is Le Pen who could benefit from her input by making her appear more reasonable.
Political scientist Marcel Gauchet said Zemmour’s rhetoric made Le Pen appear “a normal candidate” and that his decision to campaign almost exclusively on immigration showed “the growing political importance” of the issue.
A photograph of him gesturing with his middle finger with the comment “Very deep!” A protester during a trip to Marseille was seized on by opponents as a sign that his campaign was imploding.
Celebrity magazine Closer also reported last week that the married father of three was expecting a baby with his 28-year-old senior adviser, Sarah Knafo, which it denounced as an invasion of privacy but did not deny it.
The exact lineup for the presidential race will become clearer when former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans choose their candidate.
On Tuesday night, the five contenders, which include former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, far-right MP Eric Ciotti, former Minister Xavier Bertrand and the head of the Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, will face off in the last of the four televised debates.
Analysts say the result is wide open.