Presidential candidate makes ‘Great Replacement’ comment

France’s Valerie Pecresse later said she had only used anti-immigration rhetoric to show voters “another path is possible”

Conservative French presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse has come under fire for using language linked to the far right and making references to border walls and the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory at her first major campaign rally on Sunday.

Addressing thousands of supporters at the Paris event, Pecresse – nominated by the center-right Republicans party – questioned whether France would “still be a sovereign nation” or would become a “US satellite or a Chinese trading post” if President Emmanuel Macron stayed in office for another decade.

“In ten years, will we still be the seventh power in the world? … Will we be a united nation or a fragmented nation? Faced with these vital questions, neither the great downgrading, nor the Great Replacement, are inevitable,” Pecresse was reported as saying by multiple news outlets.

According to Politico, it marked the first time that Pecresse has publicly referred to the far-right doctrine that white French Christians are being supplanted by Muslim immigrants at the direction of the country’s elites.

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Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has previously voiced support for the theory, which influenced Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant. The outlet noted that Pecresse is currently battling two other right-wing candidates, Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, to secure a place in the run-off vote against Macron.

In her speech, Pecresse also reportedly referred to “overflowing” immigration having created “zones of non-France,” and supported building border “barriers” and “walls” requested by European countries that are “on the front line in the face of migratory blackmail.”

Political opponents and anti-racism groups slammed her remarks, with socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo accusing her of “[crossing] yet another Rubicon.” Meanwhile, Francois Patriat, a senator for Macron’s party, tweeted that the comments marked a “great disenchantment” for the “republican right.”

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Facing criticism over the rhetoric, Pecresse appeared to walk back some of her comments on Monday, telling the RTL network that she had meant she would not “resign myself to Zemmour’s theories and extreme-right theories, because I know another path is possible.”

“It’s something I’ve been saying for months, so I don’t even understand this uproar,” Pecresse added, while maintaining that immigration had created “non-France” areas in the country.

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