Rumors that had been circulating around the French political scene for weeks now were confirmed over the weekend after Marion Maréchal, a former French MP and niece of Marine Le Pen, officially threw her support behind presidential hopeful Éric Zemmour.
In an interview with the French news magazine Valeurs Actualles on Sunday afternoon, just hours before appearing at Zemmour’s campaign rally in French Riviera port city of Toulon, Maréchal, the granddaughter of Front National founder Jean-Marine Le Pen, formally endorsed the Reconquête! candidate and explained why she’s backing him instead of her aunt.
When asked why she had decided to support Zemmour over Le Pen, Maréchal said that—in light of highly dynamic nature of French politics at the present moment—she considers Zemmour “best placed to qualify for and create a surprise in the second round,” adding that he “he has cards in his hands that others do not have.”
Eric Zemmour seems to be the only one who can break down the electoral wall that has been gradually erected between different French socio-professional categories. For years, we have been prisoners of a kind of political and electoral neo-class struggle, crystallized in the RN and LREM votes… The result is that different categories of the population no longer understand each other, no longer speak to each other, and are unable to find themselves in a common project.
Maréchal, who in 2012 became France’s youngest MP in modern political history before stepping away from politics five years later, then contrasted the Zemmour’s campaign strategy, which seeks to unite the ‘patriotic bourgeoisie’ and the working class, with that of Marine Le Pen’s, which frames the election as a dialectical struggle between “the French from the cities and the French from the countryside, the forgotten ones of globalization and the winners of the start-up nation, and the people against the elites.”
For Maréchal, the course of action her aunt’s campaign is taking—the “elite bloc versus popular bloc” strategy—plays directly into the hands of Macron. It is “not only a trap but even a dead end,” she says.
Macron has translated it politically into the “populists versus progressives” confrontation. The problem is that it is a scheme that suits him perfectly because he is the big winner!
Conversely, Éric Zemmour, “by building a project for all, by using another dialectic… has succeeded in bringing together French people of all backgrounds and conditions. He is in the process of breaking down this famous electoral wall that I was talking about. This is very good news for the defenders of national unity that we are.”
Zemmour has managed to bring together “this gathering of the Right that I have been calling for for a long time, by attracting voters and elected officials from the RN, LR and elsewhere into his fold,” Maréchal continued, adding: “I have never considered that this union of the Right was an objective, an absolute, but on the other hand it is a prerequisite, a path towards the gathering of the French and the victory of our ideas.”
Zemmour’s electoral strategy, which Maréchal argues has “weakened the cordon sanitaire” presently in place against France’s national Right, adding that it has made it so the Reconquête! candidate is not “in an electoral corner.” When figures like Éric Ciotti, François-Xavier Bellamy, and other LR senators have indicated they may vote for Zemmour if he were to face off against Macron in the second round, “it is a very strong political and symbolic signal,” Maréchal said.
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about Maréchal’s decision to join the Reconquête! campaign, however. Certain figures within Rassemblement National (RN), some of whom are close friends and advisors of Maréchal, have expressed skepticism about her latest move, which could be an indication that she’s looking to re-entering politics.
“Poor Marion has been transformed into a kind of lifeline for a campaign that is collapsing in on itself,” one RN official close to Maréchal told the French newspaper, Marianne, arguing that the move will not change a thing.
“It makes her look like a follower. And that calls into question her word, since she had said that she would support the best placed and today, in all the polls, it is Marine,” the RN official said.
Maréchal’s decision to back Zemmour comes after several high-profile lawmakers from the RN have defected to the Reconquête campaign. In February, MP Stephane Ravier— Rassemblement National only Senator—announced his decision to join Reconquête!, saying: “From now on I am giving my support to Eric Zemmour in this presidential campaign because I’m convinced that he is the real uniter.”
Also last month, Nicolas Bay, an MEP for RN, following accusations that he had leaked confidential information to the Zemmour campaign—accusations which he denied—then joined Reconquest. He now serves as the party’s vice-president.