Until a couple of years ago, the “great replacement” — a racist conspiracy theory that white Christian populations are being intentionally replaced by nonwhite immigrants — was so toxic in France that even Marine Le Pen, the longtime leader of the country’s far right, pointedly refused to use it.
But in a presidential race that has widened the boundaries of political acceptability in France, Valérie Pécresse, the candidate of the mainstream center-right party in the coming election, used the phrase over the weekend in a speech punctuated with coded attacks against immigrants and Muslims.
The use of the slogan — in what had been billed as the most important speech so far by Ms. Pécresse, a top rival of President Emmanuel Macron — has fueled intense criticism from both her opponents as well as allies within her party. It also underscored France’s further shift to the right, especially among middle-class voters, and the overwhelming influence of right-wing ideas and candidates in this campaign, political experts said.
Éric Zemmour, a far-right author, television pundit and now presidential candidate, was the leading figure to popularize the concept in France in the past decade — describing it as a civilizational threat against the country and the rest of Europe. [Continue reading…]