At the time when photos of Eric Zemmour waiting for his suitcase at Abidjan airport, in Côte d’Ivoire, circulated on social networks in France, Thursday, December 23 in the morning, the entourage of the far-right candidate is rubbed his hands and announced a press release ready for publication. The person concerned waited to arrive at the logistics camp of Port-Bouët, a commune of Abidjan, where the French forces are stationed in Ivory Coast, to perfect the effect of surprise in full Christmas celebrations and to claim the cons -foot of the head of state. His team then hinted to the press, not invited to the trip, that he would spend New Years Eve with the soldiers – he actually returned to Paris on Thursday evening.
This twenty-four-hour express trip was set up in the wake of the cancellation of Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Mali, scheduled for Monday, December 20, to the forces of Operation “Barkhane”. General Bertrand de La Chesnais, Eric Zemmour’s campaign director, then imagined for his candidate a trip to Gao, closer to the soldiers in operation in Mali. « He had a whole catalog of four or five requests », slips a source to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, where a « Agreement subject to conditions » for travel to Côte d’Ivoire, as for any candidate who officially requests it. Eric Zemmour’s team undertakes to observe total discretion and the absence of media coverage to preserve the neutrality of the armies.
Thursday, however, the nationalist candidate publishes a long press release issuing a « Message to the armed forces in operation » and portrays himself as a potential leader of the armed forces present « With the soldiers engaged in Africa and in Operation Barkhane « – the soldiers of the Abidjan camp do not participate however to the operation in the Sahel. He adds a series of tweets spreading ten photos featuring him on the military base, where he is seen putting a finger on a gun and shaking the hand of a soldier. « He did not respect the clear rules that he had accepted, neither moral commitment, nor republican decorum », we react in the entourage of Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces. The spokesperson for the ministry, Hervé Grandjean, reacted publicly on Thursday evening: “This moral commitment that we ask of the presidential candidates was not kept today by a candidate. We regret it. «
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Anxious to minimize the displacement, the ministry of the armies had evoked Thursday a « passage express » Eric Zemmour on the operational base. During a four-hour visit, the far-right candidate ate a meal with the soldiers of the 43e marines battalion and received a gift « In the name of the staff of the armed forces ». He assured the soldiers that he would grant one » particular attention » to the means, to stand out from Emmanuel Macron who had faced the shattering departure of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Pierre de Villiers, in July 2017, after strong tensions around the defense budget. However, he ignored the increase in the army budget from 32 billion euros in 2017 to 41 billion in 2022.
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