France: Sarkozy says immigrants should learn French.

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Jan 15 14:36:35 UTC 2007

>>From the NYTimes, January 15, 2007

French Interior Minister Sails to Presidential Nomination

PARIS, Jan. 14 Frances interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, overwhelmingly
captured the governing partys nomination for president on Sunday, pledging
to enforce laws, respect tradition, restore morality to public life and
make the French work longer and harder. In an 80-minute acceptance speech
in a conference hall packed with 80,000 cheering supporters, Mr. Sarkozy
also struggled to shake his reputation as the countrys unforgiving and
divisive enforcer of law and order, portraying himself as a man of
compassion. I have understood that humanity is a strength, not a weakness,
Mr. Sarkozy said from a vast stage bearing the colors of the nations
tricolor flag. I have changed.

He added, I have known defeat, and I have had to overcome it, like
millions of French people. But his message seemed aimed at wooing Frances
right-wing voters, perhaps even more than those in the center or on the
left who could potentially support his main rival, the Socialist candidate
Segolene Royal. My values are yours, those of the republican right, the
51-year-old Mr.  Sarkozy said. These are the values of fairness, order,
merit, work, responsibility. He insisted, however, that he was not a
conservative, and supported innovation and the struggle against injustice.
He evoked the classic images of French history, including the Crusades,
the Enlightenment, the cathedrals and Joan of Arc, but said little that
would appeal to Frances millions of Muslims. Despite the French republican
ideal that ignores religious and ethnic differences, Mr. Sarkozy broke
with tradition by referring to the French as the heirs of 2,000 years of

In a veiled reference to Muslims who resist the French model of
integration, he said that it was unacceptable to want to live in France
without respecting and loving France and learning the French language. He
said as president he would enforce French laws against polygamy and
genital cutting. Mr. Sarkozy contrasted what he called the virtual
republic of his opponents to the real republic he wants to create. The
virtual republic practices widespread coddling, but leaves people to die
on the sidewalks, he said, and allows strikers too much power and makes
excuses for delinquents. He said the real republic, by contrast, creates
jobs, builds houses, lets workers earn a living, gives poor children a
chance and makes everyone respect the law. He also characterized Frances
generous social benefits system as in crisis because people do not work
long and hard enough. The problem is that France works less when others
work more, he said, adding, You have to love labor and not hate it.

Mr. Sarkozy also referred to his own immigrant roots, calling himself a
little Frenchman of mixed blood. Mr. Sarkozy's father was a Hungarian-born
aristocrat; his mother is half-Jewish. The speech is certain to be pounced
upon by Mr. Sarkozy's political enemies for not being more conciliatory
toward France's large Muslim community, immigrants, the troubled youth of
Frances suburbs and workers, for example. It was a very ideological,
confrontational performance designed to seduce the right, said Dominique
Reynie, a professor of political science at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques
in Paris. He was much more to the right than Chirac or Giscard or Pompidou
ever were. His aggressive positions can only create more divisions in our
country. During a campaign event, Ms. Royal said she had no comment on Mr.
Sarkozy's nomination. But Julien Dray, the Socialist Party spokesman, said
in a statement that Mr. Sarkozy's speech was extremely worrisome for French
citizens and reflected the return of the violent French right.

Mr. Sarkozy's nomination was never in doubt, despite the absence of support
for him from President Jacques Chirac and some other senior government
officials. Mr. Sarkozy, who is also the leader of Mr. Chirac's center-right
Union for a Popular Movement Party, controlled the party apparatus and was
the only candidate running. He won 98.1 percent of the vote, with nearly
70 percent of the 330,000 registered members of the UMP, as the party is
known, participating, primarily via the Internet. Mr. Sarkozy's tough talk
and personal style contrast starkly with Ms.  Royals approach. In his
speech, Mr. Sarkozy veered between personal confessions about having to
overcome setbacks in life and shrill lecturing, even shouting, as he
chopped the air with upraised arms and pointed his fingers at his audience
to drive home his message.

The ever smiling Ms. Royal, by contrast, has embarked on a campaign of
engaging in a perpetual grass-roots conversation with the French people,
in which the main goal seems to be to listen to their woes. Mr. Sarkozy's
political triumph on Sunday was undercut by an ugly rift within his party
that threatened to rob him of crucial support against both Ms. Royal and
the far-right National Front in the election this spring. Mr. Chirac and
Mr. Sarkozy have made no secret of their distrust and dislike of each
other. Some Sarkozy supporters are convinced that Mr.  Chirac will play
the role of spoiler and do what he can to prevent a Sarkozy presidency.
Last week, Mr. Chirac, who is 74 and has been in office for 12 years, said
that he had not ruled out running for an unprecedented third term as an
independent. He did not appear at Mr. Sarkozy's nomination on Sunday.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, and the president of the National
Assembly, Jean-Louis Debre, both Chirac loyalists, have thus far withheld
backing for Mr. Sarkozy's candidacy. But Mr. Sarkozy has won important
party backing from two former prime ministers under Mr. Chirac, Alain Juppe
and Jean-Pierre Raffarin. On Friday, Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie,
who had thought of running for president herself, threw her support behind
Mr. Sarkozy. The IFOP polling institute reported a week ago that 81
percent of French voters said that they did not want Mr. Chirac to run for
re-election, highlighting popular concerns that such a race could divide
the center-right vote in the first election round in April. Consecutive
polls indicate that Mr. Sarkozy is the only candidate capable of beating
Ms. Royal. An IPSOS opinion poll released last week put the two candidates
in a dead heat if they were to face off in a second round of voting in

Despite his rocky relationship with Mr. Chirac, Mr. Sarkozy in his speech
praised him for opposing the American-led war in Iraq, a position that is
supported by a vast majority of the French. I want to pay homage to
Jacques Chirac, who honored France when he opposed the war in Iraq, which
was a mistake, said Mr. Sarkozy, who has often been accused of being too
pro-American. Mr. Sarkozy intends to continue working as Mr. Chirac's
interior minister, essentially the third most important official after the
president and the prime minister.

Ariane Bernard contributed reporting.


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