During the 2021 French presidential election, French journalist and pundit Éric Zemmour seized the world’s attention as nationalist firebrand. Despite this, the party he established, Reconquête (Reconquest), has gone relatively unnoticed in the anglophone world. However, it’s worth taking note of this new movement. Many politicians from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National have left to join Zemmour in his political efforts.
MEP Nicolas Bay recently made that transition and is now a leading member of Reconquête. In this interview, he discusses the party’s activities on both the national and European fronts, despite its reputation for Euroscepticism. He also shares insight into his political biography, the differences and similarities between types of French nationalists, and what the future holds for this new political force.
Eric Zemmour’s presidential campaign last year received a lot of national attention, but people outside of France have paid very little attention to the party he founded. What is the Reconquête party, and what do we need to know about it?
Reconquête is a new French political force that embodies the civilizational Right, attached to tradition, civil and economic liberties, the protection of the French people and our national and European identity. Between the Républicains party, who have betrayed everything to support Macronism, and the Rassemblement national (RN or National Rally), which can hardly still be considered to be on the Right, Reconquête represents a classical conservatism capable of facing contemporary challenges.
Éric Zemmour has been able to gather sincere patriots, figures of the French Right such as Marion Maréchal and Guillaume Peltier who, like me, are vice presidents of the party, united to fight the many threats to our nation and European civilization. First of all, the great replacement, the uncontrolled mass immigration that makes assimilation impossible and deeply upsets the demographic balance in the West.
We are also committed to combating French decline that takes several forms: economically, of course, with an obese State and a socialist system that impoverishes us; educationally, characterized by a severe drop in performance level and ‘wokism’ that infiltrates our schools; ailing industry, plagued by a suffocating bureaucracy and norms that kill our entrepreneurs; and finally a geopolitical decline, with a weakened France and EU, both discredited on the international scene. The State must stick to its regal functions, with a long-term strategic vision, doing less but doing it better.
Finally, Reconquête is a party of the civilizational Right, which means that we are fully aware that we belong in European civilization. We do not wish to leave the EU but to reform it from top to bottom, both in its functioning, so that it is more democratic and respectful of people and nations, and in its political orientations. The centralizing drifts of the EU—which seeks to impose its progressivism on member states and deprive them of their sovereignty—are unacceptable. It is necessary to show Eurorealism, a common-sense approach that favours cooperation over coercion.
What have Reconquête’s main activities been following the end of the legislative elections, and how has it been received by the French public?
Reconquête has been active on all fronts. We have continued our public meetings, to meet the people, spread awareness of our project, and hear France’s concerns and aspirations. Our meetings are always full. Moreover, one year after the launch of the party, our membership campaign has been a real success. Despite last year’s electoral results, we have more than 100,000 members, which, in terms of membership and engagement, makes us the leading party in France and shows that momentum and fervour are still there.
We also initiate and support action on the ground. We have won victories by pushing back against the imposed distribution of migrants in the French countryside; we have had several conferences featuring Islamist preachers banned; we are protecting France’s identity by fighting against movements to tear down our historical and religious statues. We also lead campaigns to raise awareness about the growth of Islamism,‘wokism’ in schools and institutions, and LGBT activism.
We have finally organized our territorial apparatus, which was originally set up during the hustle and bustle of the presidential campaign. We now have reliable leaders and teams in all constituencies, including overseas. We are also implementing training sessions for our elected officials, our executives, and our activists. These training sessions cover our political foundations, our project, and the techniques, animation, and communication that we use to promote our movement. We are already actively preparing for the European elections next year.
What can you tell us about your own political biography?
My political commitment began in the ranks of the National Front when I was a teenager. I define myself above all as an activist whatever the different responsibilities, functions, and mandates I exercise. I was elected as a municipal councillor, and I am established in Normandy, where I am still a regional councillor.
I have been sitting in the European Parliament for almost nine years. I am committed to defending a Europe that is worthy of our millenary civilization and respectful of the nations and peoples that make it up. Finally, with Marion Maréchal and many other executives and elected officials from both the RN and LR, I chose to join Éric Zemmour because it is the Reconquête movement that today represents the ideas and values that have always been at the heart of my political commitment.
For the leader and parliamentarian that I am, changing parties was neither pleasant nor comfortable, but I think that a politician must be faithful to his convictions and to the commitments he has made to his voters rather than being locked into partisan and subaltern considerations.
Many on the European Right say that Rassemblement National has become an almost left-wing party. Do you agree with this assessment? If so, is it because of their stances on social values or on economics? How does Reconquête differ?
The numerous drifts and renunciations of the Rassemblement National make it a de facto left-wing party, at least on some fundamental issues. To name but a few: Marine Le Pen did not see fit to push against same-sex marriage, a law that not only sparked the most important French popular movement since the 1980s, prior to the Yellow Vests, but—above all—profoundly challenges our vision of society and the family. This legislation opened the door to medically assisted reproduction for lesbians, which has since been approved. The next step will be surrogate motherhood. Recently, the Rassemblement National proposed and voted to entrench abortion in our constitution. Why, and with what aim? To give pledges of progressivism. We don’t know yet what the Rassemblement National will decide concerning euthanasia, but we have our worries. These are major anthropological questions, which have essential bearing on the common good that we want to defend. However, these subjects are not important to the Rassemblement National, which has a materialistic and strictly economic vision of society.
On immigration, identity, and the fight against Islamism, the Rassemblement National has also retreated. For example, the Rassemblement National no longer wants to ban the Islamic veil. Yet, in our country, the concept of “laicité” which implies secularism and religious discretion in public space is central. In the past, the Republic violently imposed its law on Catholicism and Judaism. Why should Islam, which is spreading rapidly and wants to impose sharia on our soil, escape this? In order not to shock the Muslim electorate, the Rassemblement National pretends to forget that France is a 1,000-year-old country and, as General de Gaulle said, we are “above all a European people of Greco-Roman culture and Christian religion.”
In economics, the Rassemblement National is largely committed to socialism and statism, promoting welfare rather than work and economic freedom, in an attempt to seduce left-wing voters. In the debate on pensions that is currently raging in France, the Rassemblement National is trying to compete with the radical Left by defending retirement at 60! This is an untenable policy and an irresponsible totem in view of our economy and our demography. Besides, retirement at 60 is being used by the Left to justify more and more immigration to “pay for pensions”…
Values, society, identity, economy … On all these subjects, and many others, Reconquête distinguishes itself from the Rassemblement National by being a genuinely and firmly right-wing party.
Speaking of the European Right, people increasingly talk about the greater cooperation between conservatives and nationalist parties across the European Union. Does Reconquête have a vision for the European Union? If so, what is it, and do you think it is reconcilable with the party’s national vision for France?
The excesses of the EU, and in particular the European Commission, are particularly worrying. In addition to the centralization I mentioned earlier—which must be fought against—Brussels is scandalously interfering in the internal affairs of member states. The Commission violates treaties and meddles in areas in which it has no competence, such as health and education, in order to impose its model and, above all, its ideology. The Commission should strictly limit itself to the competences granted to it by the Member States, and the latter should be able to promote voluntary cooperation instead of the current forced standardization. We need bilateral or multilateral partnerships, more or less strengthened according to the domain concerned, so that each nation can defend its interests and all peoples to preserve their culture and way of life.
It will also be necessary to confront the government of the judges, as Éric Zemmour called it. This government has become almost dictatorial. A decision of the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] or the CJEU [Court of Justice of the European Union] has more weight than the constitutions of the Member States! Not to mention the fact that the Commission uses these decisions to harm its political opponents and to impose changes that the people do not want, as in the case of Poland, Hungary, and most recently against Lithuania with ECHR’s ruling on a book that promotes ‘homoparentality.’ France can reverse this hierarchy of norms through a referendum. Our constitution protects the fact that in our country the Supreme Court is the people.
Our vision for Europe is therefore perfectly coherent with our vision for France: strong and free nations constituting a community bound by a shared civilization and turned towards the future. That is why we call ourselves the civilizational Right. I am happy that the cooperation of patriotic and conservative forces is intensifying, all the more so as these forces are becoming increasingly successful. Our political family will soon be in a position to put the EU back on the right track.
While RN refused Reconquéte’s offer of a Union Nationale, they and other parties did manage a substantial breakthrough into the National Assembly, denying Macron’s party a majority. Do you think that Reconquête will achieve similar electoral breakthroughs in the future?
There are many like-minded parties in Europe that started at a modest electoral level and quickly became influential in their countries. Some even came to power. I am thinking of Fratelli d’Italia, VOX, and the Sweden Democrats. Elsewhere, parties such as Law and Justice or Fidesz exercise power intelligently and achieve real political victories by fighting against progressivism while belonging unambiguously to the European family. They set an example of responsible and courageous civilizational conservatism in action.
The French electoral system is very unfavourable to new parties, and the presidential election determines the legislative election, which, by the way, is not proportional. In these conditions, the fact that a newly established party came in fourth, ahead of the old Republicans and Socialist parties, with 7% in the first round of the presidential election, despite the backdrop of war that traditionally favours known candidates, is a relatively minor defeat. In the mid-February polls, before the war in Ukraine and the ‘useful vote’ effect made us go backwards, Éric Zemmour was in the second round against Emmanuel Macron.
The French people are hungry for freedom and identity. Only Reconquête offers both these perspectives. I have no doubt that we will make rapid progress, starting with the European elections.
In conclusion, is there anything you’d like to encourage international political spectators to watch out for in French politics?
On the one hand, the Rassemblement National has changed so much that it can no longer be considered right-wing, except for an ever-softer opposition to mass immigration. Marine Le Pen openly rejects conservative or right-wing labels. In the Assembly, the Rassemblement National’s 88 deputies have served no purpose other than to constitutionalize abortion rights. On the other hand, the Républicains, after so many betrayals, have lost the confidence of the French, have collapsed electorally, and are moving closer to Emmanuel Macron. At this point, it is hard to tell what distinguishes them from his party.
Reconquête is now the only right-wing party in France. It always takes time for perceptions to change in the electorate, but this fact will become obvious. Our political ideas are clear, our fighting spirit in the service of France and European civilization is intact, and our margin of progression is immense. The next deadline for the French will be the European elections, and Reconquête will be there.