Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour last night took part in a tense TV debate. Among many points including his traditional anti-immigration arguments he spoke of helping hard-up young people buy homes of up to €250,000 by removing the notaire fees and branded #MeToo a movement to “eradicate men”.
The Elysée 2022 programme on December 9 was Mr Zemmour’s first TV appearance since officially announcing his bid for the presidency on November 30.
Mr Zemmour debated with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, and Marseille councillor Samia Ghali as well as answering three pre-recorded questions from the public
He claimed to have 40,000 members in his new party Reconquête, which costs €30 to join. We note this is 20,000 more people since December 7, when BFTMV claimed that the party had 20,000 members, with donations and fees having allegedly raised more than €1.7million.
The candidate laid out several key points and pledges, in a heated debate.
1. He is ready for ‘a conflict’
Mr Zemmour appeared aware of the controversy of his stance. When asked about his ability to bring the French people together, he said: “It is false to assume that presidential candidates are about bringing people together.
“What is democracy? It’s not about agreeing unanimously. It’s about agreeing about your differences, your opponents, your fights. I am not going to pretend to bring people together with whom I don’t agree. I am ready to stand up for my differences, and to take on the conflicts.”
2. A surprising (and widely perceived unrealistic) plan to help hard-up students
Asked by a 20-year-old what he would do to help hard-up young people “make it to the end of the month” and find housing, Mr Zemmour said that he would eliminate the need for first-time buyers to pay notaire fees for a property of up to €250,000.
This comment has brought wide condemnation as it would (obviously) only aid those already in capacity to become homeowners and not students and others struggling to pay a monthly rent and food bill.
3. A ‘helping hand’ to French Muslims
Bruno Le Maire reproached Eric Zemmour for sending a "slap in the face to French [Muslim] citizens" by asking them to "choose between Islam and France". He stressed the "imperative need to fight" against Mr Zemmour and the extreme right.
Eric Zemmour said he was actually offering a "helping hand" to French Muslims so that "they assimilate French history and morals".
According to him, "Islam is not only a faith, it is also a code, the Islamic laws. I say that you have to choose between the Islamic laws, the code, the Sharia and the Republic".
4. Sharp exchanges with economy minister
Mr Zemmour clashed with Bruno Le Maire, and disagreed about the so-called “decline of France”, the use of nuclear power, and issues of immigration and identity.
Mr Zemmour accused the government of “not doing anything without asking the Constitutional Council”, and said that “in my view of democracy, it should be the people who decide, not the council”.
Yet, Mr Le Maire countered by saying: “In my view of democracy, Mr Zemmour, the President does not have total power. He is subject to a legal order that stops him from doing whatever he wants.”
Mr Le Maire said: “General de Gaulle himself said that he was not old enough to become a dictator, and I think that at age 63, you would have all the qualities needed to become one.”
La cohérence de mon engagement politique, c'est de toujours refuser l'extrême droite. Le débat que nous venons d'avoir avec Éric Zemmour me confirme l'impérieuse nécessité de lutter contre lui et contre la montée des extrêmes. #Elysee2022 pic.twitter.com/ml6PrFmBgi— Bruno Le Maire (@BrunoLeMaire) December 9, 2021
5. ‘Realpolitik’ on Saudi Arabia
Mr Zemmour said that he “does not judge regimes” and called himself a “realpolitik guy”.
He said: “People can do what they want in their own countries. France must have good relationships with everyone, especially the Gulf countries. So there is no reason to not visit the [Saudi] king.”
TV presenter Laurent Guimier said that this contrasted considerably with something Mr Zemmour said in 2015, when he called the Saudi regime “Isis that has succeeded”.
6. ‘#MeToo is a movement to eradicate men’
Mr Zemmour once again said that the #MeToo movement – an online and real-life campaign in which women have spoken out about sexual harassment and assault – was “a movement to eradicate men”.
Responding to sexual assualt allegations against him, the candidate said: “I do not have to respond [to these allegations]. It’s my private life, and I don’t talk about my private life.
“These women accuse me, without any proof. It’s their word against mine.”
Mr Zemmour claimed that all the media cases against singers and high profile people “have ended in acquittals and dismissals”, but did not address cases such as Georges Tron or Harvey Weinstein, who have both been convicted and jailed for rape and sexual offences.
7. Response to Samia Ghali’s claim that he could cause ‘civil war’
The elected councillor of northern Marseille accused Mr Zemmour of having a divisive and damaging attitude towards Muslims and “a part of the French population”. She said that if the candidate made it to the Elysee, France would be “put in danger” and “we will have a civil war”.
But Mr Zemmour countered: “I’m worried about a teacher being beheaded in the street, and about a priest being killed while his killer shouts ‘Allah Akbar’.”
He was referring to the killing of the teacher Samuel Paty, and the Catholic priest Olivier Maire who was killed in the Vendée.
Mr Zemmour stated that the civil war “had already begun” because of the Islamist attacks in France.