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France

New chief of French anti-discrimination body appointed

media Jeannette Bougrab AFP

A woman member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP of Algerian origin has been appointed the new chief of France’s official anti-discrimination body. Sarkozy nominated Jeannette Bougrab head of the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination and for Equality (Halde) on Tuesday, ending a controversy about the candidates, during which a leading UMP member was accused of racism.

Bougrab takes over from Socialist Louis Schweitzer. Her appointment was welcomed by SOS racisme and French immigrant groups.

Bougrab is a 36-year-old lawyer who was a member of the Socialist-led SOS Racism before she joined the UMP. She became a member of the National Integration Council (HCI) in 2002.

Born in central France to Algerian parents, who supported the French presence in Algeria during the war, Bougrab has described herself as a committed member of the UMP with roots in social Gaullism.

In 2007, she ran as the UMP-candidate in regional elections in Paris, but was defeated by Socialist candidate Christophe Caresche.

She was appointed as head of the administrative council at France’s National Agency for Cohesion and Equal Opportunities (Acse) in January this year.

Bougrab is a lecturer at Paris's Institute of Political Studies and used to teach at the Sorbonne University.

Her nomination puts an end to a controversy about Schweitzer’s succession as head of the Halde.

Two weeks ago UMP Senate whip Gérard Longuet, who is one of Sarkozy’s closest allies, was accused of racism when he opposed the nomination of Socialist candidate Malek Boutih because he does not come from a “traditional French” background.

SOS racisme reacted to Bougrab’s nomination by saying that "Longuet has not gained this victory", adding, "Mrs Bougrab is an experienced woman of remarkable competence.”

Before retiring, Schweitzer said that he hoped his successor would be "someone committed who has a certain level of authority and visibility".

Although she has a record of activism, Bougrab is little-known to the wider public.

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