Morning Chronicle - French far-right hopeful Zemmour attacks welfare handouts

London -


French far-right hopeful Zemmour attacks welfare handouts
French far-right hopeful Zemmour attacks welfare handouts

French far-right hopeful Zemmour attacks welfare handouts

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour on Saturday used a meeting in the northern city of Lille to launch a tirade against welfare handouts.

Text size:

Looking to outmanoeuvre fellow far-right rival Marine Le Pen in April polls, Zemmour told 6,000 supporters he was on the side of a "France that works".

At her first campaign rally in Reims, northeast of Paris, Le Pen meanwhile spoke to a crowd of some 4,000 people, most of whom believed she represents a less "extremist" view of the world.

Choosing Reims, a city where numerous French kings were crowned down the centuries, Le Pen beamed as one backer, 58-year-old businesswoman Annick, said she would get her vote.

"I am doing well economically but with Marine Le Pen there are values -- attachment to our French identity, an image of firmness," said Annick.

She dubbed Zemmour "an extremist in his attitude and words" who "has no sincerity".

Both far-right candidates are looking to sweep up support in their bid to reach a presidential run-off vote in the industrial north of the country which is a traditional hotbed of support.

The north is also a region, Zemmour suggested, where "handouts are an insult".

Promising to tackle low salaries, he scoffed: "When you get up every morning to go and work... you don't accept that your neighbour lives better than you do thanks to welfare without having to work."

Lille's Socialist mayor Martine Aubry had earlier said Zemmour was not welcome in the town and joined a peaceful demonstration against "hate" organised by anti-racism group SOS Racisme.

Police said a little over 1,000 people -- including a few hundred from the hard left -- staged another protest, during which security forces fired tear gas towards a handful of people dressed in black.

Among the protesters, Christian, a 68-year-old retiree, said he was there because he was worried his fellow French were being "deaf and blind" to far-right ideas he believes are dangerous.

During Zemmour's rally, one journalist with private broadcaster LCI told AFP one of his supporters had spat in her face.

In a recent survey of voters by polling firm Ipsos, Zemmour and Le Pen both scored 14 percent.

The poll put President Emmanuel Macron in the lead with 24 percent, followed by right-wing contender Valerie Pecresse with 16.5 percent.