There is a lot of debate in the French papers and websites over last Sunday’s first round of the regional elections, which were lost by president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP. The conservative French website Le Conservateur wrote about the election result that it was “a slap in the face” for Sarkozy:
Often there is a gap of 15 or 20 points between the candidate on the Left and the UMP candidate! […] The right-wing voters – the “popular classes” who had voted for Sarkozy [in last year’s presidential elections], probably more so than the others – stayed home, while the left-wing voters went to the polls. That this election is a national indicator can be proven by the irreversible loss suffered by the fine Christian Vanneste, drubbed on the first round in the city of Tourcoing that had elected Sarkozy, only to throw him overboard a year later.
Christian Vanneste, a popular member of the French Parliament who was convicted last year for making “homophobic” remarks, failed in his bid to become mayor of Tourcoing, a town in the French northern province of Flanders (adjacent to the Belgian Dutch-speaking region of Flanders). Mr Vanneste confirmed the opinion of Le Conservateur:
In Tourcoing, the popular electorate that had massively voted for Sarkozy in 2007 stayed home. It is obviously the behavior of Nicolas Sarkozy (especially his wealthy friends and his private life) that displeased these voters... And so we have a record abstention of 45% and a new mayor elected by only 23% of the registered voters.
Nicolas Sarkozy and his advisers are currently trying to change his image back to one of a conservative politician. Next Sunday, the French go to the polls for the second round of the regional elections. Sarkozy is a pure opportunist, as these excerpts from an article in Le Monde demonstrate:
He is not campaigning. “The President of the Republic does not get involved in municipal elections,” declared Nicolas Sarkozy on March 11 during a visit to Toulon, […] And yet, the choice of Toulon is not due to chance. It was in this former fief of the Front National, ideally situated between Marseilles and Nice, that Sarkozy chose to return to the topics of immigration and national identity, “the most important topic in French society,” according to him. His hope? To win back those voters disappointed in his policies who stayed home last Sunday.
During a 90-minute round table discussion the president explained his policy in detail. In the presence of his Minister of Immigration Brice Hortefeux, he once again advocated “quotas” and an annual debate in Parliament to determine the exact numbers. “Identity is not a pathology,” he declared, hiding behind a quote attributed to ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. […]
The presidential advisers present in Toulon tried to get across the idea of Sarkozy's “coherence” by means of a strange triptych: “1. He is president. 2. He does not participate in local elections. 3. He hears the message of the French people.”
Wouldn’t it be a better example of coherence to just say: “He is president. He is not a conservative. But he will pretend to be one long enough (two more days) to get your votes.”
Meanwhile, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Front National leader, has been convicted of racism and fined 10,000 euros for remarks he made about Muslims four years ago. La Croix reports:
Jean-Marie Le Pen was fined 10,000 euros on Wednesday by the Paris appeals court for provocation to discrimination, hatred and racial violence, as a result of his remarks about Muslims printed in April 2004 edition of the extreme right-wing journal Rivarol. The 11th chamber of the court of appeals also sentenced the president of the Front National to 5,000 euros in damages to be paid to the plaintiff, the Human Rights League. […]
On April 2, 2004, the criminal court of Paris had condemned Jean-Marie Le Pen for an interview he gave to Le Monde on April 19, 2003, in which he declared: “The day when we have in France not 5 million but 25 million Muslims they will be our masters.” “The French people will hug the walls, they will walk on the sidewalks with their eyes lowered. And if they don’t, they will be stopped: ‘Why are you looking at me like that, are you looking for a fight?’ And you will have to run, or else you’ll be beaten,” he added.
A month later Le Pen was back on the offensive in an interview in Rivarol: “Furthermore whenever I said that with 25 million Muslims in France the French people will hug the walls, people in the audience would say to me, and rightly so: ‘But Mr. Le Pen, that is already the case now.’”
It was for these new remarks that he was convicted on Wednesday.
“The defendant pits the French against the Muslims [...] and attempts to arouse [...] a feeling of rejection and hostility towards the Muslim community,” the court decided Wednesday. “His words instill in the mind of the public the belief that the security of the French depends on rejecting Muslims and that fear and apprehension, linked to their growing presence in France, will cease if their numbers decrease and if they disappear,” the court added.
Le Pen’s remarks make it all the more surprising that he adopted a phony and almost embarrassingly inept pro-immigrant stance for the presidential election last May, in which he was trounced.