In a polemical interview given to the French parliamentary TV channel LCP (in partnership with Le Monde, France Info and AFP), centrist Jean-Christophe Lagarde has accused François Hollande of ‘wanting to garner political capital’ from the groundswell of civic nationalism that followed the January terrorist attacks, and of trying to ‘go it alone’. Article source: “Jean-Christophe Lagarde accuse François Hollande d’« instrumentaliser » l’esprit du 11 janvier”, Françoise Fressoz, Le Monde.fr, 11/02/2015.
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French national unity a thing of the past
At first, President Hollande “seemed open” to dialogue, summoning various political leaders to the Elysée in the wake of the attacks, but since then the leader of the UDI, Jean-Christophe Lagarde claims “nothing has happened”. “Instead of attempting to diagnose the dysfunctional elements of French society, (…)” he said the President had offered only, “monologues, unilateral declarations and a press conference in which the plan for a civic participation service was discussed for two hours, while economy and employment were dealt with in 20 seconds.”
Lagarde evoked a “France at war with barbarism*”, and criticised Hollande for preparing the country poorly for this war. “I’m not sure everyone has understood what’s at stake with these terrorist attacks,” he said, “ISIS and Al-Qaeda barbarians are attacking our way of life, our values, the importance of human rights, the role of women in society, the principle of secularism.”
Lagarde considers the situation to be grave and accuses President Hollande of failing to “morally rearm the French people.” He fears that if fresh attacks take place, “the country might lose its grip.” Yet, for him, “the purpose of these barbarians is to separate the Muslim community from the national community, in order to bring about a major civil conflict.”
“Barriers are coming down” between the UMP and the FN
When asked about the outcome of Sunday’s by-election in the Doubs département (on the Swiss border) , in which the PS candidate beat an increasingly popular Front National by a slender margin, Lagarde criticised the UMP’s “lurch to the right”, encouraged by “party officials such as Thierry Mariani and Laurent Wauquiez.”
“The barriers are coming down” between right-wing and far-right voters, he claimed, and the distinctions are becoming blurred. “After Jacques Chirac drew a line in the sand,” he pointed out, “there were fewer voters moving from one party to another. And there were also fewer left-wing voters turning to the far-right.”
He also confirmed that he recently had a meeting with François Bayrou. “Of course, I talk to him,” he said, underlining his differences from those within the UMP who castigate the MoDem leader for declaring he would personally support François Hollande in the second round of the 2012 presidential election. “I want to work with all the people who have been let down or feel betrayed and cheated on** by François Hollande,” he said.
* « France en guerre contre la barbarie », is a potentially dangerous bit of loose talk. In French, barbarie (“barbarism”) is a homonym of Barbarie (“Barbary”), the old word for the Maghreb, the area of North Africa from which the vast majority of French Muslims originate. It is highly unlikely that Lagarde intended this unfortunate pun, but the context makes it highly suggestive to any reader with a historical knowledge of the French colonies.
** cocufiés, (“cuckolded”). Speaking only a few months after the publication of the rather sarcastically titled book, Merci pour ce moment, by the President’s former partner, Valérie Trierweiler, Lagarde is making a sly reference to Hollande’s alleged compulsive sexual infidelity.
Translation by Sébastien Dieuaide and Richard Martin
Editing by Sam Trainor
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