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Foreign Correspondent: Far-Right France: The Battle for the Soul of France

11/04/2022

April 7, 2022

In this month’s presidential race, France is swinging to the right. Candidates on the far-right candidates are polling around 30%. The left is divided, xenophobia rife. Is the nation that champions equality and fraternity losing its way?

“We have a history. We have a past we care about and it’s very threatened.”

Thais is a social media influencer and a fierce supporter of France’s most extreme-right candidate, Éric Zemmour.

She’s been convicted of causing public disorder and banned from Tik Tok. Now, she’s promoting her anti-immigration message on YouTube. “We live in a multicultural society and we’ve just seen that…multiculturalism doesn’t work”, says Thais.

A few years ago, Thais’ views were considered toxic. Now many in France fear they’re becoming mainstream.

In the upcoming presidential race, candidates on the far-right are polling higher than ever before, around 30%. The candidacy of Zemmour, a high-profile media commentator, has been a game changer. He’s been convicted of hate speech three times and promotes the ‘Great Replacement’ – a debunked conspiracy theory that a master plan exists for Muslims to replace Europeans.

Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founding father of France’s modern far-right movement, is currently polling in second place, after incumbent President Macron.

The divisive rhetoric of Zemmour, Le Pen and their followers is making many in France’s immigrant communities uneasy. “I’m really concerned about the fact that people like Éric Zemmour are really pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable or not”, says Ahmed, a deputy mayor on the outskirts of Lyon in France’s southeast.

Reporter Michael Rowland travels through France on the eve of an unprecedented election. He visits Paris and the regions, talking with social media influencers, community leaders, workers and commentators. In a nation where voter apathy means low turnout, the far-right’s ability to galvanise people gives it a real advantage. Days out from the election, Le Pen is closing the gap with Macron. The results of this election could change France forever.

About Foreign Correspondent: Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all. Contributions may be removed if they violate ABC’s Online Terms of Use http://www.abc.net.au/conditions.htm (Section 3). This is an official Australian Broadcasting Corporation YouTube channel

About Foreign Correspondent: Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.

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