The far right focuses on immigration the debate for the presidential elections in France

The far-right candidate Éric Zemmour / AFP

The xenophobia of the candidate Éric Zemmour creeps into voters and causes division in the discourse of the left

Although he has not yet officially announced his candidacy for the French presidential elections in April 2022, the far-right polemicist and essayist Éric Zemmour has managed, with his defense of the supremacist theory of the ‘great replacement’ and his xenophobic statements, to impose immigration as one of the central themes of the electoral campaign for these elections.

Spurred on by Zemmour, the far-right Marine Le Pen and the candidates on the right harden the tone on immigration matters so as not to appear soft next to them. The French Government tries to show with various gestures that it maintains control of the borders and fights against radical Islamism. And the left is divided on the immigration issue.

The potential ultra candidate – the author of best-selling essays such as ‘The First Sex’, ‘French Suicide’, ‘French Destiny’ and ‘France Hasn’t Said Its Last Word’ – exhibits unapologetic Islamophobia and xenophobia. Zemmour defends the supremacist theory of the ‘great replacement’, a conspiracy theory that maintains that the white population is being replaced by immigrants. Denounce a “migratory invasion.” He accuses Muslim immigrants of not integrating into French society and of trying to impose their customs and sharia. And it advocates the closure of borders and the systematic expulsion of criminally convicted foreigners.

The essayist’s public statements have even taken him to court. Zemmour was tried last Wednesday for “complicity in the provocation of racial hatred and racial insult” for saying in September 2020 on television that unaccompanied minor migrants “are thieves, murderers and rapists” and “have nothing to do” in France. The sentence will be known next January.

Le Pen, who seems more moderate, considers that the proposals of his rival on the extreme right are “more immature” than his because his party has been working on a program for some time. Le Pen proposes a bill on immigration that will be put to a referendum if she wins the April elections.

The Republicans, Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, will elect their presidential candidate in December. And in the debates leading up to the primaries, the five conservative candidates have drawn muscle on immigration matters. Michel Barnier, former European Union chief negotiator for Brexit, surprised by promising that if elected president he will announce a moratorium of three to five years to close the French border to migration. He also wants to call a referendum on immigration policy. The far-right leader Marine Le Pen also proposes these two things.

Xavier Bertrand, favorite in the conservative primaries, wants to organize a referendum to modify the Constitution and allow Parliament to set immigration quotas each year. Bertrand wants to prohibit the regularization of all foreigners who have entered France illegally. And he is committed to dividing family immigration by three and the number of student visas by two. The third highest-rated candidate of the Conservatives, Valérie Pécresse, wants to impose quotas for visas and residence permits. And he wants to prohibit access to any social assistance aid before five years of legal residence in France.

Steps closed

President Emmanuel Macron, who has not yet officially announced that he is running for re-election, announced at the end of September a “drastic” reduction in the number of visas for Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian citizens due to the “refusal” of these three countries to grant Consular safe-conduct for the return of their nationals who have an expulsion order from French territory.

The French government has also ordered the closure of several mosques and dissolved associations suspected of making jihadist propaganda, in their fight against radical Islamism. In addition, Paris is keeping ten posts closed on the Spanish border in an attempt to show the French that the French government is fighting against illegal immigration, the terrorist threat and drug trafficking. Although Spain has asked France to reopen them, it is not convenient for Macron to do so in the middle of the electoral campaign, as it would seem lax on immigration.

The influence of this discourse has even affected the left. The progressive candidates raised the cry when Arnaud Montebourg, a former socialist minister and aspiring to the presidency as an independent, proposed blocking the transfers of money from migrants to those countries that do not accept the return of their nationals with an order to leave French territory. . Montebourg had to back down after rivals on the left reminded him that Zemmour proposes the same.


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