Zozo dans le métro
It seems that Éric Zemmour may be on the verge of throwing his hat in the ring for 2022 and that a fair number of ex-Lepenist politicians may be prepared to back him. He has asked at least one ex-RN mayor for his parrainage. So the question arises, How would the race be affected if Zemmour gets in?
At first sight, the answer might seem to be that no news could be sweeter for Emmanuel Macron. Zemmour will split the far right vote, severely cut into Marine Le Pen’s total, and thus assure Macron of easy victory. But to reason thus is to forget that Macron’s support is for the most part quite soft and depends crucially on voters who, while they may not like him, see him as the only realistic alternative to Le Pen, or at least as no worse than any of the center-right-to-hard-right hopefuls who would like to replace him: Bertrand, Pécresse, Wauquiez, Barnier, Retailleau, Larcher, etc.
If, however, Zemmour divides the far right, the first round becomes a more wide-open affair. With Le Pen already diminished by her party’s poor performance in the recent regional elections, a repeat of her strong first-round performance in 2017 is looking less and less likely, and a Zemmour challenge would likely whittle down her support to the level of the other contenders, while also freeing soft Macron supporters to look elsewhere. Round one could become a free-for-all in which a half-dozen or more candidates divide the vote with no clearly dominant leaders–a Tour de France in which no riders are able to break away from le peloton–at least until the really difficult étapes. The rentrée could be interesting.
If Macron were Mitterrand, one might be speculating that Zemmour had been mobilized as a clever Machiavellian ploy to split the far right, as Mitterrand once mobilized the populist rabble-rouser Bernard Tapie. Macron’s position is more complicated. While he might have reason to applaud Zemmour’s entry into the race, he also has reason to fear it. Zemmour is the CNews candidate, and CNews is clearly aiming to become France’s equivalent of the Fox network in the US. Zemmour would like to follow the trail that Trump blazed, riding TV celebrity into the Élysée, with the backing of a powerful news network controlled by a wealthy tycoon (Vincent Bolloré playing the role of Rupert Murdoch for CNews). Since this nexus of celebrity, media power, and wealth represents a clear and present danger for democracy, one hopes that the Zemmour candidacy, if it materializes, will quickly go down in flames.
Photo Credits: “Éric Zemmour,” 18 June 2021, by Entourage Zemmour via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY 4.0)
As always, I’m left to wonder if the prospect of a more fluid electorate doesn’t raise the possibility of a viable center-left candidate emerging. I understand the structural and personal flaws of all the potential options, but in terms of the electorate itself, there’s still a LOT of people who might be open to supporting someone more credible than Melenchon et al, and more social and populist than Macron — particularly if that someone credible and social could attract that portion of the electorate which is looking for a more tolerant and inclusive society than is on offer from anywhere else.