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Friday, 24 April 2009

Rachida Dati giggles her way to the European elections

Earlier this week the French justice minister, Rachida Dati put in, what was by all accounts, a less-than-convincing appearance at a question and answer session during a meeting of young members of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party

The subject - Europe - as Dati is standing as number two in the list for Ile de France (the region of Paris and its surrounding area) for the party in the upcoming European parliamentary elections.

But was Dati just "playing a game" as she insists or did she in fact not know how to answer the questions?

To begin with, Dati turned up 90 minutes late and the way in which she answered some of the questions gave many commentators the impression that she hadn't really prepared in the first place.

Here's a sample

First question was one that didn't cause too many problems,

"After Paris, which is the most beautiful capital in Europe?" someone asked.

"After Paris.....Rome," replied Dati with intermittent giggles.

And then the question, "The most beautiful European monument outside of France?"

(Giggles) "I'll 'phone a friend," she responded.

And then with a questioning glance to the moderator, "Sagrada Família in Barcelona?" Followed by more giggles, smiles and an appreciative round of applause from the audience.

Later on though the questions became more difficult, and Dati's answers accordingly more incomprehensible.

When asked whether she was more in favour of wind power or the Iter project (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) based in the south of France, Dati replied, "I'll say that 77 per cent of our energy comes from nuclear - that's right isn't it?"

A pause followed during which someone from the audience reminded her that it was "77 per cent of electricity (in France) and not energy."

" said energy," she replied to the initial questioner.

More giggles and then, "So nuclear, yes. And then of course it's necessary to invest in research for sustainable energy, which includes wind power," she continued.

"That's right isn't it?"

If that answer hadn't been entirely convincing, there was apparently more confusion to come later when Dati was asked whether she thought Europe occupied itself too much with international affairs.

Her reply was......well you judge.

"It gets involved in what we give it to be involved in. And then it gets involved in things we give it to be involved in with the people who are able to carry out the affairs with which they're involved," she replied turning to the moderator to check whether she had answered the question well.

Immediately after the meeting as the French media began reporting what had happened, the Socialist party described her performance as "the offhandedness of a minister in disgrace" whereas the UMP insisted it was a moment of "relaxation" in front of the party's young members.

There was no official statement from the office of the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

And Dati, what did she have to say?

She claimed the meeting was supposed to be in the format of that popular television quiz, "Qui veut gagner des millions" (Who wants to be a millionaire) and she had only been playing her role.

"I was invited by the youth membership of the party to participate in a parody of the show," she said on national radio on Thursday.

"The idea was to take that tone in answering certain questions. So for example when there were questions about football, that's what I did," she continued.

"When it comes to energy, I know the sector perfectly well," she maintained.

"What we had organised with the members present was that I would ask to 'call a friend' - the audience - responding to the question as though I had been given the response. It was a parody."

And as far as the claim that she hadn't been particularly well prepared for the meeting Dati said, "I'm out there campaigning practically every day, except of course when I have ministerial duties to perform.

"The whole polemic doesn't interest me, and it never has," she continued.

"I think politics is like life and sometimes it's important to relax and laugh."

Dati is number two on the UMP list for the European parliamentary elections for Ile de France behind a fellow cabinet member, the agriculture minister, Michel Barnier.

If as expected they're both elected on June 7, they will both have to stand down from their governmental posts.


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