French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Eric Zemmour

He's the far-right TV pundit and author with a collection of criminal convictions for hate speech who is challenging France's traditional far-right party for the presidency. Here are some things you might not know about Eric Zemmour.

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Eric Zemmour
Eric Zemmour. Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

1 He’s on the right

Zemmour is firmly to the right of the political spectrum now, but he was born in the famously left-wing Paris suburb of Montreuil, which for many years has been under control of Communist mayors.

These days it’s getting quite gentrified, but there are still many proud reminders of its left-wing heritage, including organised demonstrations against its ‘local lad’ presidential candidate when he tried to hold an event there. 


2 His family is from Africa

Perhaps unexpectedly for someone on the far right, Zemmour himself is Jewish and his parents were born in Algeria, which at that point was a French colony.

He has controversially (by which we mean almost all respected historians say that he’s wrong) suggested during World War II the French Vichy regime protected French Jews and ‘only’ allowed those born overseas to be deported to Nazi death camps.

3 He’s not an expert on copyright law, or grocery shopping

He has been a journalist, columnist, TV pundit and is the author of several books on the subject of France and its decline.

But during this career he apparently never picked up the basics of copyright law – the video announcing his candidacy as president had to be hastily junked when it emerged that he (or his team) had failed to secure permission for the numerous news, archive and movie clips used in it. A court later ordered him to pay €70,000 for breach of copyright. 

4 He believes in ‘traditional values’He’s apparently not great at getting groceries either, since according to French satirical paper Le Canard Enchainé he has two walked out of grocery stories without paying for his items. Zemmour said that the latest incident, in posh Paris grocery Bon Marché, was a simple case of forgetfulness, and sent his security chief down to pay for his €38.80’s worth of items.

A social conservative, he’s married with three children, although in January 2022, after an exposé in Closer magazine, he announced that his 28-year-old chief campaign adviser is his new partner.

In his books he has spoken at length about how France’s ‘virility’ is being eroded by feminism and the feminisation of society. 

The French investigative website Mediapart has published an exposé in which eight women accuse Zemmour of inappropriate conduct or sexual assault, mostly while they were working with his as interns or trainees during his journalism career.

5 He has strong views on names

If he’s elected, you might need to change your name.

Zemmour has previously said that only ‘French’ first names should be allowed, suggesting that only first names listed in a decree from 1803 should be allowed.

This is a long-standing obsession, back in 2016 he informed former justice minister Rachida Dati that it was “outrageous” of her to name her new baby Zohra. 

In response a French web developer set up this joke online name generator where you can check if your first name conforms to the 1803 list and – if not – get a suggestion for a new one. Bad news for any Stephens out there, you would be known as Estelle 

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Macron rules out ‘national unity government’ for France

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised a new style of government based on 'listening and respect' - but did not announce an alliance with any other parties that would give him a majority in parliament.

Macron rules out 'national unity government' for France

Macron has been holding meetings with all other party leaders in an attempt to break the deadlock in parliament after his group lost its majority in Sunday’s elections, but in a live TV address to the nation he did not announce an alliance.

Instead he said that a new style of government was called for, saying: “The responsibility of the presidential majority is therefore to expand, either by building a coalition contract or by building majorities text by text.”

He rejected the idea of forming a “government of national unity” with all parties, saying that the present situation does not justify it.

READ ALSO Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

But he said that opposition groups have signalled that: “They are available to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health.”

He said: “We must learn how to govern differently, by dialogue, respect, and listening

“This must mean making agreements, through dialogue, respect, and hard work. The country has made its desire for change clear.”  

Speaking for just eight minutes in the gardens of the Elysée, Macron added: “I cannot ignore the fractures and strong divisions that traverse our country.”   

He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.

Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures, which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.

He added that he himself had been re-elected in April on a platform of “ambitious reform” which he expected to carry out.

The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) ended Sunday’s elections as the largest group in parliament – but with 245 seats they are 44 short of an absolute majority.

The leftist coalition Nupes – an electoral alliance of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists – got a total of 131.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National got 89 seats and the centre-right Les Républicains got 61 seats. 

With deadlock in parliament, Macron has been holding meetings over the last two days with the party leaders in the attempt to create an alliance that will allow him to pass legislation over the next five years.

Reacting to Macron’s speech, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist alliance which is the second largest group in parliament, said: “He was elected because most French people did not want the extreme right – the French people have rejected the president’s proposals.

“Nothing can change the choice of the French people.”

Macron’s position as president is not directly threatened by the lack of a majority, but it will mean that passing any legislation – which must be agreed by parliament – will be very difficult.

While negotiations between all parties will continue, Macron himself heads to Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.