On March 6, Marion Maréchal (ex-Le Pen), niece of Marine Le Pen and grand daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen has officially rallied Éric Zemmour and his campaign – and was therefore the star of his campaign event in Toulon that day. Despite a clear betrayal of her aunt, her closeness with the identitarian wing and her ambition to contribute to the project of “gathering the rights” (rather, gathering the far rights) has been known for years. In 2019, even though Marion Maréchal was officially retired from party-politics and occupied with the management of her graduate school in Lyon (ISSEP), she participated to the Convention of the Right, along with Éric Zemmour where topics of anti-Islam, anti-immigration and “great replacement” dominated the speeches.
Furthermore on the electoral front, Éric Zemmour’s popularity has dropped since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, because of his historical Putin-friendly positions and statements. The polls clearly show that Marine Le Pen is benefitting from this situation, as she managed to swipe away her similar Putin-friendly history by focusing on purchasing power discussions, even more central since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Nevertheless, on March 23, Éric Zemmour went one step further in his ambition of “immigration zero”: he announced that if elected he would create a “ministry of remigration” and expel 1 million foreigners over 5 years. Some days later, he gathered many trends of the far right at the Trocadéro, Paris when he held a campaign meeting. Lastly, Nicolas Dupont Aignan, third far-right candidate to the Presidential elections, has been rallied by Florian Philippot, who had however first unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate joining Zemmour’s ranks.
On March 22, Valeurs Actuelles, initially a right-wing conservative newspaper which today constitutes a favourite outlet for far-right journalists and topics, organised a political “debate” with over 3000 attendees plus a YouTube livestream audience. Difficult to speak about a “debate” when 5 out of the 6 invited speakers belong to the (far) right. Among the public, the far-right social media personalities Thaïs d’Escuffon and Baptiste Marchais were there to support their candidate, Éric Zemmour. This event was co-sponsored by the social media Gettr favoured by the far-right and close to the US conservatives, and Odea travelling agency, partner of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (accused of being connected to war crimes in Syria).
The extra-parliamentary far right has specifically made the news this month as the Argentinian rugby player Federico Martín Aramburú was murdered in an open street in Paris on March 19. The primary suspects are two figures of the far right, known for their violence: Loïk Le Priol and Romain Bouvier. The events of the March 19 remain unclear at this point, however several newspapers have reported that the shootings happened as a result of Aramburú, and his friend Hegarty, standing up to denounce racist comments made by Le Priol and Bouvier. This scene first led to a fight at the bar where the scene took place. As Aramburú and Hegarty were leaving, they were caught by Le Priol and Bouvier, arriving by car, who shot at them. Both suspects are former members of the Groupe Union Défense (GUD), a far-right violence student organisation founded in 1968 and self-dissolved in 2017, becoming Bastion Social (itself dissolved by the French government in 2019). They were both already known by the justice mainly because of the extremely violent joint assault of a former GUD leader in 2015 – for which they were meant to be judged next June. Le Priol is also the founder of clothing brand proudly worn by far-right personalities in the past. He was arrested when he tried to cross the Hungarian-Ukrainian border on March 23, and claimed he was on his way to Ukraine to fight.
In the meantime, on March 30, the French government has dissolved the Antifascist group GALE (Groupe Antifasciste Lyon et environs), which constitutes the first dissolution of a “far-left” group since 1982 – a decision that GALE will contest. The reasons are surely political, but formally it is on the bases of incitement to violent actions and calls for hatred towards the police forces that the dissolution took place. This decision is unsurprisingly controversial, in a context of upcoming presidential elections while Lyon is known for being a stronghold for far-right activists and groups.
As the war in Ukraine has given more visibility to far-right “solidarity” projects, Antifascist collective in Angers has investigated the humanitarian enterprise of far-right groups in France, and especially of the NGO “Urgence Humanitaire”. The organisation was founded late January and is presumably gathering activists connected to Alvarium, a neofascist organisation in Angers dissolved by the government last year. The war in Ukraine gave an opportunity for Urgence Humanitaire to rise and organise a mission between Poland and Ukraine, with an associated website “refugies-ukraine.fr”, where it states their mission to help “Christian refugees” who belong to “the same European family”. Other groups continue to organise donations of goods and medicines to Poland or Ukraine, sometimes joining forces with each other (Lyon Populaire and Les Braves Lyon; Helix-Dijon, Bordeaux Nationalistes and Luminis-Paris).