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The Battle for the French Right

The French presidential election in April will almost certainly be decided in a second-round contest between the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, and one of the right-wing candidates. Much therefore will depend on the performance of potential spoilers like Éric Zemmour, the French version of Donald Trump.

PARIS – Just a few weeks ago, the 2022 French presidential election seemed liked it was already a done deal: President Emmanuel Macron would again defeat Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party. Although Le Pen received one-third of the vote in 2017 – an achievement that would have been unthinkable ten years earlier – no reasonable person would bet on her prevailing over Macron in 2022.

Yet nothing is ever certain in politics. Owing to new developments, the election – to be decided in two rounds on April 10 and April 24 – will be much more open and competitive than initially expected.

One new factor is the candidacy of Éric Zemmour, a French version of Donald Trump who previously gained attention as a TV commentator on the French version of Fox News (CNews). An anti-immigrant nationalist, Zemmour regularly denounces “political correctness” and insists that one should have the right to say that someone is black, by which he really means that one should have the right to be a racist.