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France

France's post-Paris attacks political truce breaks down as new elections approach

media Under fire - Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron had been criticised for saying that social conditions in France contributed to Islamist radicalisation Reuters/Charles Platiau

French politicians were arguing over the causes of the 13 November Paris attacks this weekend after a week of on-again/off-again political truce between the mainstream left and right. President François Hollande's standing in opinion polls rose but it was unclear whether that would help his Socialist Party in forthcoming regional elections.

France should not indulge in "self-flagellation" after the Paris attacks, right-wing MP Pierre Lellouche told French radio on Sunday in response to Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron's comments on Saturday that French society had contributed to creating the "compost" in which violent Islamism grows.

Click here to read more articles on Paris attacks

Pointing to discrimination in the job market against people who "have a beard or a name that could be taken for Muslim", Macron said that France has stopped social mobility and created a spirit of defiance among some individuals.

But the jobs market is closed "for everybody", argued Lellouche, a member of former President Nicolas Sarkozy's Republicans, and many "terrorists" had jobs or were students.

While accepting that France is faced by "social problems", he insisted that "there is also contamination by a violent poison that is radical Islamism, which we're not doing anything against".

"The problem is that [the Islamic fundamentalist trend) Wahhabism is winning," he went on. "It's a poison injected by Saudi Arabia, by Qatar, over several years. In exchange for our weapons ... they open mosques and send us Salafi imams."

Sarkozy himself on Wednesday accused President François Hollande of failing to act against terrorism after January's Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

"How many victims must there be before we use the word [failings]? Were all the implications considered after the January attacks? The answer is no," he asked in an interview with Le Monde newspaper.

One of Sarkozy's rivals to become the mainstream right's candidate in the 2017 presidential election, former prime minister Alain Juppé, struck a different note the next day, telling Hollande that he supported his call for national unity "to fight what is the opposite of our history and our civilisation".

Republican MPs switched from national unity to partisan heckling and back again during the course of the week.

On Monday both sides of the house stood to sing the national anthem but the brief political truce fell apart in the National Assembly the next day.

One MP heckled Prime Minister Manuel Valls's appeal for "patriots to come together to fight terrorism" with a cry of "It's too late!", while Justice Minister Christiane Taubira and Health Minister Marisol Touraine were greeted with boos when they stood up to speak.

Faced with a storm of criticism on social media, the Republicans parliamentary leader, Christian Jacob, told his comrades to calm down on Wednesday and they applauded Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve when he praised the security forces' role in the siege of jihadists in Saint Denis that day.

There was not compromise from the far-right Front National (FN), however.

Click to see the graphics

Its leader Marine Le Pen called for no more migrants to be allowed to enter France just three days after the attacks, while her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, claimed they had taken place because successive governments had been soft on crime.

"No, people aren't leaving for jihad because of Islamophobia," she said on a visit to Toulouse as part of the campaign for next month's regional elections. "It's because radical Islam is making progress, it progresses every time the republic retreats."

Official campaigning for the regional elections, which are on 6 and 13 December, starts Monday with the FN hoping to make historic gains in two regions.

Hollande and Valls have fared better in opinion polls since the attacks, with the president's support rising eight points to 33 per cent in one released this weekend and Valls up three points to 40 per cent.

How much that will effect the Socialist Party was unclear, however.

Two opinion polls taken after the attacks show the FN in the lead, as it was before them, but one showed the Socialists overtaking the Republicans to take 26 per cent, just behind the FN at 27 per cent but ahead of the mainstream right at 25 per cent. 

 

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