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To say “opinion is divided about Eric Zemmour,” the right-wing candidate for president of France, is an understatement, and we have heard from a number of sensible observers of French politics that Zemmour might not be the best idea. Certainly the mainstream media is as panicked about him as they are about Trump. Some conservative critics say he a lightweight, a poser, the equivalent of Bill O’Reilly, and running chiefly to undermine Marine Le Pen.
Thomas Chatterton Williams of The Atlantic writes of witnessing Zemmour “electrify a seething and violent mob,” and suggest Zemmour is an anti-Muslim bigot with this concluding passage:
What would they like to do to these people should they have their way in April? Back at home, catching the rest of the speech that we had missed, we heard the beginning of a not-so-subtle answer. Zemmour had named his new political party Reconquest, evoking the medieval expulsion of Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula.
Philippe Lemoine, writing for the recently founded Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, offers a more favorable view:
However, although he opposes immigration and despite what many people say, he doesn’t have a racial conception of Frenchness, which indeed would be rather weird since he is of non-European descent. He thinks that anyone can be French, no matter their background, but that being French involves adopting French culture and not just having French citizenship. He often criticizes people who claim that, in order to be French, one just has to adhere to human rights and a few other abstract principles. But while he thinks that anyone can in theory be French, he believes that France, which has been unable to assimilate the non-European immigrants who are already here, won’t be able to do so — let alone assimilate newcomers — if we don’t stop immigration. Therefore, he doesn’t attack only illegal immigration, but also and even mainly legal immigration. This includes asylum, which he wants to reduce to a few hundred people a year at most, citing Japan as his model because it only accepted 47 refugees in 2020.
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