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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sarkozy is "Leading the crusade" in Libya says French interior minister

Whatever was France's interior minister Claude Guéant thinking about when he said during an interview on Monday of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy's role in Libya that, "Fortunately, the president has been leading the crusade to mobilise the UN security council, the Arab League and the African Union."

France's interior minister Claude Guéant (screenshot from interview)

Yes "crusade". That's the term he used. Not exactly one lacking historical connotations as many in France have been quick to point out.

Even though he has since admitted that, "With hindsight I should have expressed myself differently and said perhaps that the president had 'mobilised public opinion to present persuading arguments to the security council'," the damage had been done and the word was out there for all to read and hear.

"Scary," is how the leader of the opposition Socialist party Martine Aubry described Guéant's choice of word.

"He would have done better to have kept quiet," said Aubry's predecessor and likely candidate for the party's presidential primaries, François Hollande.

"It was more than unfortunate, it was a word he shouldn't have uttered."

Even some within his party, the governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement,UMP) were hard-pressed to defend Guéant's choice of word with the foreign minister Alain Juppé describing it quite clearly as a "blunder" and "one that had nothing to do with what was happening (in Libya)."

But was it really just an "unfortunate" term and an example of a man not used to the political limelight. Or is there something more sinister going on?

At face value Guéant certainly appears to be "like a bull in a china shop," as Le Point journalist Anna Cabana described the interior minister during her piece on national public radio France Inter on Wednesday morning.

Less than a month into the job and he has already managed to tell the country not only that Sarkozy has "led the crusade" but also that the "French don't feel at home in France".

Guéant though is no political beginner as Cabana makes clear. He has served for the past nine years as one of Sarkozy's closest political advisors and his views and thoughts must be well known to the French president.

Sure he has now stepped out of the shadows and is busy proving himself to be every bit as crass in his statements as his predecessor in the job and another Sarkozy crony, Brice Hortefeux (whose 2009 racial slur against Amine Benalia-Brouch, a young party activist of Algerian origin, still sticks in the craw).

But is this really just inexperience at play or a deliberate strategy by Sarkozy in the run-up to next year's presidential elections.

Has Guéant in fact been placed intentionally in the hot seat to try to appeal to voters who might otherwise drift towards the far-right Front National.

Remember its leader, Marine Le Pen, is currently buoyed by opinion polls that show her as a serious threat to Sarkozy's chances of making it through to the second round of voting in those elections.

Can Guéant really be the fool his statements appear to suggest. Is he just naïve when it comes to being in the public eye?

Watch this space for answers.

At this rate Guéant is not going to leave it blank for very long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems that all interior ministers are prone to blunders. Wasn't it Hortefeux who said that one arab is alright, it's when there are many of them that it becomes a problem? If they are not blunders, and Hortefeux and Gueant are really saying what they think, then the man who chose them as minister is more sinister then I though!

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