During an interview with France Info radio on Tuesday, Gérard Longuet, who is the UMP whip in the Senate, declared that Malek Boutih should not be appointed chief of the High Authority for the Fight against Discrimination and for Equality, Halde, because he does not come from a “traditional French” background.
The senator contrasted Boutih with retiring Halde head Louis Schweitzer because, he argued, the organisation represents “France opening up to new populations”.
“Schweitzer is perfect!” he said. “An old Protestant, perfect! The old Protesant bourgeoisie, perfect!”
And he opposed Boutih’s nomination on the ground that was “someone symbolic, exterior”.
Socialist Party number two Harlem Désir slammed Longuet’s declaration as “a veritable racial theory”, while UMP spokesperson Frédéric Lefebvre described it as regrettable.
And, to add to the UMP’s discomfiture, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen said he agreed with Longuet, complaining that he was stealing his policies ahead of this weekend’s regional elections.
UMP politicians have been accused of racism on several occasions before and during the election campaign:
- In September 2009, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux was caught on video joking about a party member of Algerian origin;
- In November Families Minister Nadine Morano told a “young Muslim” that he should feel French, find work and wear his cap the right way round;
- Last month UMP candidates in the Paris outskirts falsely accused a Socialist of Malian origin of being a repeat offender.