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French minister in tears at National Assembly

© AFP (file photo)

Text by Sam Ball

Latest update : 2013-07-17

French Housing Minister Cécile Duflot, facing criticism over a Tweet made by her partner expressing his pride at boycotting a military parade on Bastille Day, was left close to tears Tuesday following a heated exchange at the National Assembly.

A row over a controversial Tweet saw a French minister reduced to tears at a meeting of the country’s parliament on Tuesday as she faced a barrage of criticism from an opposition MP.

As France’s traditional Bastille Day celebrations got underway on Sunday, July 14 with a military parade in Paris, Xavier Cantat – environmental activist and partner of France’s housing minister and former Green Party leader Cécile Duflot – took to Twiter to inform followers he was “proud” to be boycotting the event, which he referred to as a “parade of boots”.

The comment sparked an immediate furore, particularly among those on the political right, who used the incident to question Duflot’s and the government’s patriotism and support of the French armed forces.

And at Tuesday’s meeting of MPs at France’s National Assembly, Philippe Meunier, a representative of the right-wing UMP party, used the occasion to further denounce what he called Cantat’s “unacceptable remarks”.

Cecile Duflot in tears at the National Assembly

Meunier, who is a co-founder of the Popular Right movement – a right-wing faction within the UMP – also criticised the government for inviting Cantat to the event, claiming that only those “who have the decency to respect the commitment of our people, particularly in Mali” should have been asked to attend the parade.

In all, 4,800 troops marched in front of President François Hollande at Sunday’s celebrations, including soldiers from 13 African countries who backed France in the recent war against al-Qaeda-linked extremists in Mali.

After Meunier made his remarks, television images showed Duflot struggling to hold back her emotions, tears clearly visible in her eyes – which Meunier later mocked as “crocodile tears” in a Twitter post.

PM: attack on Duflot ‘pathetic’

France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, however, was bullish in his defence of Duflot, labelling Meunier’s comments “pathetic”.

"All members of the government ... were present at the ceremony and parade on July 14," he said. "I am proud of our military … and we were proud that marching alongside French troops were African soldiers and the Malian army.”

A spokesperson for France’s socialist MPs, Thierry Mandon, also offered support for Duflot, saying that to blame her for her partner’s Tweet “illustrates the lack of scruples of an opposition only interested in destruction”.

“We … give our support to the minister and remind those who have in the past demanded respect for their privacy to stick to their principles,” he added in a statement.

Date created : 2013-07-17

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