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Friday, 25 March 2011

Claude Guéant - "a minister whispering into the ear of France's far-right Front National"

Not a day seems to go by without the recently-appointed interior minister Claude Guéant making a remark which many are interpreting as an attempt to reach out to potential voters of the far-right Front National (FN).

"He's a minister whispering into the ear of the Front National," is how one prominent Socialist party politician, Jean-Marc Ayrault, described Guéant's latest comments about the need to prevent anyone using the country's services from wearing religious symbols.

Yes Guéant is at it again.

Claude Guéant (screenshot from i>Télé interview)

In the space of a week he has made remarks that have angered the opposition Socialist party - and many others - worried some within his own party, confused and surprised those who've worked close to him over the years and provided a platform for the FN to expound its policies.

After "the French not feeling at home in France" and praising Sarkozy for "leading the crusade in Libya" comes the latest in what some see as a direct appeal to those tempted to vote for the FN.

This time it was the suggestion that religious symbols should be banned in all public services - not only for those working in them, but also those using them.

"Obviously anyone working in a public service shouldn't wear a religious symbols or show any religious preference," he said in an interview on the news and current affairs channel i>Télé on Thursday.

"Nor should those using them," he added.

Guéant tried to cover himself somewhat by saying later that he had mainly been talking about hospitals and in particular cases in which women didn't want to be seen by male doctors.

But as had happened on the previous day with his "crusade" comment, the reactions came thick and fast and once again Guéant was flavour of the day in terms of news reporting.

Most telling of all the reactions though is from someone who knows Guéant well, and indeed worked alongside him for eight years.

Interviewed on Friday morning's news magazine La Matinale on Canal +, Abderahmane Dahmane, president of the democrates musulmans de france and until recently a special advisor to the French president Nicolas Sarkozy in charge of diversity, said he was as confused as anyone by Guéant's remarks.

"I have the impression that the sky is falling in on them," he said in reference to Guéant and Sarkozy, both of whom he said he still considered friends.

"In eight years of working together I never heard a word uttered by Claude Guéant that could annoy anyone. He was always the go-between, the moderator," he continued.

"But now, I don't understand why he's saying what he is. What purpose does it serve?"


And where is Sarkozy in all of this?

All right so he's currently playing "King of the World" as leader of the G20, G8 and the "crusade" against Libya.

But he's also a man used to meddling in all aspects of domestic affairs as he sees fit and reining in ministers whenever they're deemed to be overstepping the mark.

Sarkozy has been strangely quiet.

Perhaps part of the answer for Guéant's apparent change in behaviour and Sarkozy's silence comes in those cantonal elections on Sunday.

Oh yes and there's that debate on laicity set by the governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) for April 5, which the leader of the party Jean-François Copé is organising to "discuss religious practice in France - including Islam - and its compatibility with the country's secular laws."

But there is of course also Sarkozy's poor showing in the opinion polls, the rise of in popularity of the FN leader Marine Le Pen and the fear that some UMP supporters will be attracted to her and her party's policies when it comes to next year's presidential elections.

Recent polls suggest that Sarkozy might not even make it past the first round of those elections.

Has he "unleashed" Guéant on France in an attempt to win over that far-right vote?

Sure looks that way - whatever anyone else is saying - or not saying.


Anonymous said...

What a sinister character! I thought ministers were chosen for their charisma. Hopefully by Sunday evening, all this scheming by Sarkozy to win the FN votes will crash in a big bang and he will realise that he has erred.

Anonymous said...

So obvious really that Sarkozy supports Guéant. He must think we're stupid not to realize. jean-Pierre

Anonymous said...

Just hope PS can keep it together. 2012 is for them to lose now. Anne-Sophie Lyon

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