The riots that have ravaged France in recent days have given Eric Zemmour a second wind. The leader of the right wing Reconquest party has been on the airwaves and in the newspapers, saying, with a touch of schadenfreude, ‘I told you so’.
In a television interview on Saturday evening, Zemmour explained that the reason he entered politics in late 2021 was because of what he described as the Republic’s twenty-year policy of ‘crazy mass immigration’. It was the issue on which he campaigned during last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Unlike Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party, Zemmour barely mentioned the cost of living crisis; immigration and Islam were his main agenda.
His twin obsessions didn’t pay off. He received 2.4 million votes in the first round of the presidential campaign – a long way off his expectations. Not one of Reconquest’s 500 candidates was elected to parliament in the legislative elections.
Zemmour and his lieutenants spent last summer in reflection. Should they broaden their horizons or maintain their focus on immigration and Islam?
The surge in migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe last summer, and a series of violent attacks committed in France by foreigners, made up their mind: stick to the existing strategy. ‘We are waging a civilisational war to preserve our age-old identity, which is threatened today by the combined effect of uncontrolled immigration and an Islam that seeks to conquer,’ declared Nicolas Bay, vice-president of Reconquest, in September.
A month later France was shocked by the murder of 12-year-old Lola, allegedly raped and murdered by an Algerian woman who should have been deported. Then in January an Algerian man stabbed six people at the Gare du Nord, and last month a Syrian asylum seeker ran amok with a knife in an Annecy playground, wounding four babies and two adults.
These atrocities, coupled with a European migrant crisis that shows no sign of being brought under control, had already reinvigorated Zemmour and his party.