French presidential election updates
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A prominent TV commentator who is expected to try to fight Emmanuel Macron in next year’s French presidential election has been removed from his regular rightwing talk show slot under rules requiring fair allocation of airtime to politicians.
With the 2022 election campaign gathering pace, Eric Zemmour — an anti-immigrant writer and polemicist often accused and twice convicted of racial or religious provocation — has been a focus of media attention in recent weeks after heavy hints about his intention to stand against Macron.
CNews, a TV channel controlled by rightwing tycoon Vincent Bolloré that has been likened to Fox News in the US, said on Monday it was dropping Zemmour from his four-nights-a-week appearances following a ruling by the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), which regulates broadcasting.
The programme, “Facing the news”, was a big draw for the channel, attracting almost 1m viewers each evening.
CNews said it regretted the decision, taken even though Zemmour had not officially declared himself a candidate, because it “deprives millions of viewers of the commentator’s thoughts”.
In its ruling last week, the CSA said Zemmour “could be seen henceforth, given his statements and his actions and the way they are commented upon, as a player in the national political debate” whose airtime must be measured.
In his programme that night, Zemmour said “cowardly” politicians were hiding behind the CSA, which, far from being independent, was under intense pressure from Macron, the government and his party.
Zemmour, 63, is a provocative “declinist” who laments what he sees as the failings of postwar France and who espouses the “great replacement” theory that foresees Muslim immigrants taking over the country from its native inhabitants. He has already given up a weekly column in the centre-right newspaper Le Figaro.
Opinion polls suggest he has little chance of making it into the second round of voting in the April election if he finally stands as a candidate — he scores less than 10 per cent in first-round voting intentions, well under half the level of Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen — but he has become an important factor in the calculations of other candidates.
Political analysts say his conservative views could attract many voters who would otherwise vote for Le Pen or for one of the candidates of the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) party such as Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pécresse or Michel Barnier.
Such a shift in votes would probably benefit Macron, for whom Zemmour does not hide his contempt.
Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on political extremism, said it was striking how the entire election campaign had been “parasitised” by Zemmour and his anticipated candidacy “which in the end obliges everyone to position themselves in relation to what he says”.
“The LR candidates such as Xavier Bertrand and Valérie Pécresse have sharpened their tone on immigration and law and order because they can see they will need to say something if Zemmour formalises his campaign,” said Camus. “Although he’s not a politician, as a media personality he fixes a lot of themes in the public mind.”