Martin Arnold, Financial Times (London), Nov. 17
Nicolas Sarkozy, French interior minister, will today call for a shake-up of immigration policy and propose tightening rules for granting visas to family members of immigrants living in France.
His comments, in an interview published in L’Express magazine today, came after an opinion poll showed that Mr Sarkozy, the early favourite for the 2007 presidential elections, had won plaudits among voters for his tough stance over the recent rioting. Analysts said his tough position on immigration highlighted how Mr Sarkozy was identifying himself with policies normally associated with far right, anti-immigration parties, like the National Front, to enhance his populist image.
The debate over immigration heated up yesterday after Gérard Larcher, employment minister, told the Financial Times that polygamy on Tuesday among immigrants was one of the social causes that helped lead to the rioting during the past three weeks.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the opposition Socialists group in parliament, said the government was taking “totally the wrong road” by blaming polygamy for causing the riots.
Early in the rioting, Mr Sarkozy was widely criticised for inciting more violence by calling the protesters “scum”. However, a poll in Le Point magazine showed 68 per cent of people approved his handling of the rioting, a jump of 11 points from a previous poll.
Dominique de Villepin, prime minister and Mr Sarkozy’s closest rival on the right for the presidency, also came through the riots crisis relatively unscathed, with 62 per cent thinking he handled the riots well, unlike his president, Jacques Chirac, who was supported by only 41 per cent.