Image copyright Sarah Raffe, Library and Archives
French far-right commentator Eric Zemmour has become the latest candidate to put himself forward in the 2019 presidential election.
The far-right National Front has qualified as a major party for the first time since 2002.
The party says as many as three others could launch presidential bids in the coming months.
Mr Zemmour was jailed in July for reciting a traditional colonial prayer over the bodies of two anti-fascist protesters.
“It’s a revolution – the start of the real establishment of the National Front,” it said.
Eric Zemmour – real name Eric Scheirer – works for French TV station BFM TV, and was once a satirical columnist for Le Figaro.
Mr Zemmour has a strong following among the anti-immigrant wing of the far-right movement, and has been outspoken about the Muslim community, saying they belonged in France’s suburbs.
The National Front, founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen, the widow of Marine Le Pen, secured fewer than 2% of the votes in this year’s presidential election, and did not enter parliament.
But its success in a range of regional and European elections in recent years has raised concerns over rising extremism in French society.
“The National Front is the most distrusted political party on the planet,” Ms Le Pen, the party’s leader, told a rally on Thursday.
Image copyright EPA Image caption Marine Le Pen, campaigning for president
In 2015, two of its members were placed under investigation for posting a video about a policewoman who had died during a police raid on a housing estate.
The party has suffered a number of withdrawals in recent years, including from Marine Le Pen’s mother, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who wants the party to be considered an anti-Semitic organisation.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s previous attempts to run for the far-right party were ditched in 2016 after his comments on immigration, sexual harassment and homosexuality were criticised by Jewish groups and other prominent supporters.
“I have the deepest respect for Marine Le Pen and the ideas of her party,” Mr Zemmour said in a news conference on Thursday.
“I am fully prepared to say the most definitive sentence that I have written during the years: The National Front is not a fascist party.”
Image copyright Reuters Image caption National Front candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was criticised for saying France should be closed to illegal immigrants
Establishing party control, as the French legal system requires, is the first step for presidential candidates.
Mr Zemmour then must wait for the official declaration of the party’s official candidate in May 2019, at which point all candidates must form a “grand coalition”.
If the current leader cannot be re-elected, Mr Zemmour and the other presidential hopefuls can step in and contest for the same position.