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Roots, Ancestors Argument in France’s Electoral Competition | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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France’s Former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Reuters.jpg

Paris-Two voting rounds will be held on November 20 and 27, to select the nominee of the right-wing Republicans party who will represent it in the 2017 France’s presidential elections.

The most prominent candidates for these elections are former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, former French Prime Ministers Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, in addition to former minister and current deputy Bruno Le Maire, who is the youngest among them all.

Sarkozy once again lashed out at what he called the “tyranny of the minorities” during a speech to supporters in the Parisian suburb of Franconville.

France’s president between 2007 and 2012, Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian-born father and French-born mother of Greek-Jewish origin.

“If one wants to become French, one lives as a Frenchman. We will no longer tolerate an integration that doesn’t work, we will demand assimilation,” Sarkozy said.

“When you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls. ‘I love France, I learn French history, and I live as a Frenchman’, that is what someone who becomes French must tell himself,” he added in reference to the ancient Celtic people who inhabited large swaths of what is today France and other parts of Western and Central Europe.

French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem on Friday hit back at Sarkozy, suggesting the former head of state was in desperate need of a history lesson. She said among Gauls, France’s ancestors also included Romans, Normans and people from the Caribbean, North Africa and Spain.

“Enough of the narrow-minded speeches that lead us to nowhere, enough of the inward-looking postures,” Vallaud-Belkacem, who is of Moroccan origin, told reporters. “I think it does a lot of harm to our country.”

In recent weeks Sarkozy and Juppe have exchanged barbs over their views on how immigrants and minority communities should live in France, with Juppe defending a greater measure of liberty when it comes to cultural beliefs and practices.

“What does assimilation mean? It means we are all the same. When you cut a tree’s roots, the tree dies. We are not all the same and we must respect our diversity,” Juppe told the news channel France Info on Thursday, in a dig to Sarkozy’s “demand” for assimilation during the speech in Franconville.

Juppe nevertheless insisted that integration had to be strictly on French terms.

“We are diverse, but if we do not do things together we cannot build a country. We know what our common goods are. It’s our history, our language, our Christian roots,” Juppe said in his own overture to conservative voters.