Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

"Why Are So Many Children Dying in Gaza?"

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Seleka calls for partition

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting

Read more

FOCUS

Can Chancellor Merkel's winning streak last?

Read more

FOCUS

Hunger in a fertile land...

Read more

ENCORE!

High-tech acting king Andy Serkis on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Read more

REPORTERS

Hong Kong in rebellion against the 'motherland'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Read more

  • Israel faces heightened diplomatic pressure as Gaza violence rages

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

  • In pictures: Thousands march for Gaza peace in Paris

    Read more

  • Bomb attacks leave scores dead in north Nigeria

    Read more

  • Netherlands holds day of mourning for victims of flight MH17

    Read more

  • Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down over rebel-held territory

    Read more

  • Ryanair ordered to pay back €9.6m in illegal state aid to France

    Read more

  • Gaza protests: ‘France imported the Mideast conflict a long time ago’

    Read more

  • Video: Fear, death and mourning in Gaza’s Khan Younis

    Read more

  • TransAsia Airways Taiwan crash leaves dozens dead

    Read more

  • Poland’s Rafal Majka wins 17th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Young riders raise French hopes for Tour de France

    Read more

  • Defying UK, France to proceed with warships sale to Russia

    Read more

  • US courts issue conflicting reports on Obamacare

    Read more

  • Video: Lebanon fears fallout from regional turmoil

    Read more

France

PM, party officials boycott Sarkozy's Islam debate

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2011-04-06

France’s ruling UMP party met Tuesday for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s debate on strengthening secularism amid religious diversity. The prime minister and other top politicians refused to take part, however, saying the debate could stigmatise Islam.

France’s UMP party gathered at the Meridien hotel in drab south-central Paris Tuesday, with a list of 26 ideas supposed to strengthen the country’s secular standing.

While the controversial debate was attended by a gaggle of journalists and guarded by a heavy police presence, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister was nowhere to be seen. 
 
Prime Minister François Fillon, along with a number of ministers and top aides to Sarkozy, chose not to participate in the convention because of concerns over the stigmatisation of Islam.
 
It’s an issue that has caused the biggest rupture in the UMP since Sarkozy began his reign four years ago.
 
On the opposite side of the Fillon camp, Sarkozy is joined by his party president, Jean-François Copé – the man who engineered the country’s ban on the full-face veil. He argues that by tackling the Islam question, the UMP will satisfy the concerns of right-wing voters – in time for next year’s presidential election. 
 
Fillon, on the other hand, says that the party must remember that its values “are not those of the far-right,” and that such a convention “is not the right place to express the government's position.”
 
Clutching at straws
 
The UMP is suffering its lowest ever ratings, with predictions for the 2012 election placing Sarkozy behind both the socialist candidate (yet to be decided) and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (FN).  
 
“From Sarkozy’s point of view, he probably thinks things can’t get any worse,” social and political researcher on France, Matthew Moran from King’s College London told FRANCE 24. “It’s likely he’s hoping that appealing to far-right voters will give him the boost he needs”. 
 
Rebellious ministers are not helping his case, however. “Sarkozy is known for his very autocratic way of dealing with his government,” Moran says. “The label of ‘hyper-president’ is important because it describes very well Sarkozy’s omnipresence in all aspects of government, to the point of eclipsing his ministers."
 
Sarkozy is widely expected to run for president in 2012, and the opposition are hoping that the UMP’s ongoing squabble will damage him. “Not necessarily,” says Moran. “Sarkozy is very good at creating a whirlwind of activity around him, so that before voters have properly reacted to an issue he’s already moved on to something else.
 
"If the debate on secularism goes badly, Sarkozy is shrewd enough to move onto another battleground very quickly. This issue, by itself, will not be fatal."

Date created : 2011-04-05

  • FRANCE

    France readies for ban on full Islamic veil

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Old differences threaten ruling UMP party power

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    French Socialists celebrate as Sarkozy's party despairs

    Read more

COMMENT(S)