France’s Top Female Presidential Candidates Slug It Out

France 24, December 24, 2011

Armed with an arsenal of barbs, low-blows and ripostes, the top two female candidates in the 2012 French presidential race have been waging a war of words in recent days, setting the stage for a perfect media storm.

Politically, Marine Le Pen, the 43-year-old leader of France’s far-right National Front, and Eva Joly, the 68-year-old Green Party candidate, stand on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum.

Personally, the two women have little in common. The youngest daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, the younger Le Pen was born in the upscale Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine and grew up in the French rightwing political establishment.

Norwegian-born Joly came to France as a 20-year-old au pair in the early 1960s before rising to become one of France’s best-known investigative judges, famed for tackling corruption among the business and political elite.

With her trademark red glasses, Joly is a household name in France and French viewers have grown accustomed to her Norwegian accent. When she won her party’s primary race earlier this year, Joly, who holds joint Norwegian-French nationality, became the first dual national to run for the French presidency.

The latest hostilities have seen the two women airing political and personal differences in speeches and on the airwaves.

The first salvo was fired by Le Pen on December 19 during a visit to a Christmas market on the majestic Champs-Elysées in Paris.

In a speech focused on French-made products and re-industrialising the economy, Le Pen said Joly lacked legitimacy since she was an “SPF”–an acronym for the French “sans patrie fixe,” or without a fixed country.

‘Every time Eva Joly opens her mouth, it turns into a gaffe’

The very next day, Le Pen took her jibes a step further on a French radio station. This time, Le Pen accused Joly of being a Francophobe, or a person who hates France and French culture.

“All her proposals are delusional and are often Francophobic. [Eva Joly] regularly expresses her hostility toward all things patriotic,” said Le Pen on Europe 1.

“Every time Eva Joly opens her mouth, it turns into a gaffe,” Le Pen continued. “One wonders why is she running for the French presidential office when clearly everything French makes her bristle.”

The National Front leader then proceeded to explain why she believed Joly was a Francophobe, enumerating themes familiar to the French public. The diatribe included allegations that Joly “wants to scrap July 14”–when France marks its National Day–and that the Green Party candidate has criticised the xenophobic underpinning of the “made in France” slogan that has turned into a campaign buzzword for many French presidential candidates.

Earlier this year, Joly sparked a controversy when she suggested that the July 14 Bastille Day military march should be replaced by a civilian parade. Her suggestion saw members of the ruling UMP party–including French Prime Minister François Fillon–chastising her for “not being French enough” as well as calls for her to “go back to Norway”.

The July 14 fracas proved embarrassing for Fillon when the media noted that Joly gained French citizenship in 1967, before Fillon–then 13–had even left school. Joly herself, appeared to have the last word with a witty comeback, when she told Fillon that she had “not just stepped off the Viking ship”.

‘I’m the only one to have chosen France’

Never one to be outwitted, Joly’s reply came the very next day on the same radio station. And it was as quick as it was biting.

“I chose France, I have lived in France for nearly 50 years, I’m the only one to have chosen France,” said Joly before going in for the kill. “It’s not for the daughter of a millionaire, an heiress to a party, heir to a torturer in Algeria, to decide who is French or not,” she added.

A former lieutenant in the French Army during France’s brutal Algerian War (1954-1962), the senior Le Pen has been accused of practising torture in the former French colony. The National Front founder has vehemently denied the charges although he lost a defamation suit against leading French daily “Le Monde” over the accusations and in another case, a French court ruled that it was legitimate for three other French publications to publish these assertions.

Needless to say, the Algerian War is a sensitive topic in the Le Pen household and Joly’s latest barb is quite likely to spark another round of verbal hostilities from her opponent on the far right. All of which will make for a lively campaign season.

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  • highduke

    Joly married the son of the family that employed her as a nanny. Against the parents’ wishes. She shares the same problem controlling her impulses as JFK and creepy Bill Clinton.

  • Question Diversity

    Politically, Marine Le Pen, the 43-year-old leader of France’s far-right National Front, and Eva Joly, the 68-year-old Green Party candidate, stand on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum.

    Notice they don’t call the Greens “far left.”

    When she won her party’s primary race earlier this year, Joly, who holds joint Norwegian-French nationality, became the first dual national to run for the French presidency.

    Some would say that Sarkozy has divided loyalties, but I’ll leave that up to you.

    A former lieutenant in the French Army during France’s brutal Algerian War (1954-1962), the senior Le Pen has been accused of practising torture in the former French colony.

    To the extent that Le Pen committed “torture,” it wasn’t just him, it was de rigueur during the French occupation of Algeria. Besides, it’s strange how the kind of governments that rule over Arabs, even if they’re Arab-run, always wind up “torturing” Arabs. It just might be that you need to “torture” Arabs in order to maintain domestic tranquility. QD’s Axiom: Most people get the government they deserve most of the time.

  • Istvan

    2 — Question Diversity wrote at 7:07 PM on December 27: Some would say that Sarkozy has divided loyalties, but I’ll leave that up to you.

    The other elephant in the room we are not allowed to acknowledge.

  • Jeddermann.

    “To the extent that Le Pen committed ‘torture,’ it wasn’t just him, it was de rigueur during the French occupation of Algeria.”

    I don’t think that the father Le Pen was accused of actually torturing prisoners but that he had admitted it was done [by others] and he did approve of it under the circumstances.

  • AlmostMusicPhD

    I was about to suggest that the French Femmes Fatales engage in a little televised Mud Wrestling, but then I saw how old Joly was- and, that she is not even French, but Norwegian.

    Boring.

    At least Marine Le Pen has a nice ‘look’ about her, her French is well-modulated, and she speaks for the REAL France, not the multiculti whorestate that is redolent of the Biblical image of the Woman astride the Beast.

    But the mud wrestling image might influence French men to voting for Le Pen, non?

    43 vs. 68? No Contest…. Vive la difference!

  • Mr.White

    I’m not sure why Joly reminds me of Obama, in political philosophy of course.

  • jack in Chicago

    Read up on the brutal race war in French Algeria – and note that the French army didn’t pull any punches and actually won the street by street, battle of the Casbah (word for Arab Muslim ghetto).

    All the *#&$@( idiot White Americans who mouth off how the French can’t fight, should understand that the White French did fight in French Algeria, they did what we all long to do to Black and other non White rapists, gangsters, rioters in American cities.

    The best work on the race war in French Algeria from the White French side is:

    Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957 by French General Paul Aussaresses

    And the movie – The Battle of Algiers is surprisingly fair and balanced. Though the movie was banned in France for supposedly taking the Arab terrorists side, I think the French counter terrorism forces come off very well.

    Check out the part of Battle of Algiers where French Gen. Matheiu tells French journalists the realities of terrorist/race wars – he says:

    “The word torture isn’t used in our orders… I ask you this question:

    Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still “yes” then you must accept all the consequences.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyi5MOtgxSQ

  • Netzach

    #7,

    “Read up on the brutal race war in French Algeria – and note that the French army didn’t pull any punches and actually won the street by street, battle of the Casbah (word for Arab Muslim ghetto).”

    The French pretty much won the war, actually – by the end, FLN was exhausted, fractured into several groups unable to coordinate, its supply lines from foreign countries largely cut, and some groups had actually defected to French side. The French left for, I gather, two reasons:

    1) Turning of public opinion against the war. Partly this was due to propaganda by pro-FLN, anti-French far left, but it must be understood that with the great expenses of the war, and the extremely brutal way it was waged, they had great raw material.

    2) De Gaulle had the foresight to realize that French could win the war, but they’d lose the peace. Hearts and minds had been lost, disorders would continue for a long time, and extensive garrison would be needed to keep the country from blowing up again. French Algeria would have been an expensive, bleeding ulcer, which moreover would have been a constant international embarassment for France and propaganda gift for Soviet Bloc. Perhaps things could have been improved by granting French citizenship to all Algerians, but this would have led to massive influx of Algerians into France, which De Gaulle wanted to avoid at all costs. Ironically, France eventually let that happen anyway.

    [quote]All the *#&$@( idiot White Americans who mouth off how the French can’t fight, should understand that the White French did fight in French Algeria, they did what we all long to do to Black and other non White rapists, gangsters, rioters in American cities.[/quote]

    France is actually the most cold-blooded and ruthless European nation in these days, and their security police hasn’t had a slightest troubles in taking gloves off when dealing with Islamist militants.

    The idiocy regarding French comes from WW2, of course, but even there it’s sheer ignorance. In WW1, France had lost over three and half percent of its population (in USA that’d be about eleven million dead young men), and even more had been crippled by injuries or severe PTSD. It’s not for nothing they spoke of Lost Generation. Moreover, a strong economy had been ruined and driven into deep debt, and as some of the richest parts of country had been fought over for years, they were little but ruins. So yes, they weren’t really eager to have another round. Surprising? No.

    They fought, however. When the Nazis encircled and destroyed the core of their army, containing its best units… They fought anyway, and actually did better, for a while anyway, until Germans broke their last defensive line and headed for Paris. At this point the fight went out of them and they conceded they had lost, because they were. Maybe they would have, if they’d been Russians, Finns or Japanese, but in any case their strategic position was at that point about as bad as Japan’s in ’45 – and while Americans had very few qualms about beating up their enemy until it gave up, the Nazi ideology actually considered it a virtue.

    “And the movie – The Battle of Algiers is surprisingly fair and balanced. Though the movie was banned in France for supposedly taking the Arab terrorists side, I think the French counter terrorism forces come off very well.”

    It’s not very balanced (Pontecorvo was dedicated Marxist and it shows), but it is one of the best propaganda movies ever made, precisely because it’s not blatant. It cleverly refrains from demonizing the French, or presenting FLN as innocent angels, while glossing over subjects like the reign of terror FLN unleashed on any Algerian it considered “moderate”, and presenting its terrorist attacks on French civilians as nobly motivated and necessary reprisal for French vigilante terrorism, when in fact it had been part of their strategy from the start, and anyway the deadly explosion depicted in the film (which did increase the terrorist attacks significantly), was probably, if not certainly, a FLN bomb factory hidden inside densely populated ghetto.

    Not that you need to be Marxist to use such strategy. Black Hawk Down does it too, and quite well.

    ““The word torture isn’t used in our orders… I ask you this question:

    Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still “yes” then you must accept all the consequences.””

    A true fair and balanced movie would have included another scene like this, one where FLN leaders debate their regime of terror on Algerians, and come to conclusion that they really can’t win the war if the people are free to collaborate with French without serious fear of reprisals. Which is as true as the quote above, and which is why such wars are so very brutal.

  • Netzach

    Just a moment ago I encountered an interesting piece on the local nationalist forum, a translation of an excerpt from Luc Bronner’s “La loi du ghetto” (2010). It details some of the measures taking by French to contain the crisis at their ghettoes, interestingly similar in many ways of Brazilian BOPE, brilliantly dramatized in the movie Tropa de Elite (if you haven’t seen it, see to it that you do). Two conclusion can be drawn from the text. One, the situation is genuinely serious. Two, at least in theory forceful and thought-out methods are being used in response. France is in crisis, but it isn’t lost.

    This is translated from French to Finnish and then by me (an amateur) to English, so do not treat this as professional French-English translation. I added a couple of definitions for some French terms in brackets.

    *

    FRUITS OF VIOLENCE AND HARSHER PUNISHMENTS

    During 2003-07 the acts of violence against public servants in France grew 38%, now consisting over 12,400 incidents a year, about thirty every day. For example, during the Villiers-le-Bel riot 2007, first night 56 out of 656 police personnel on ground were injured, and second night, 70 out of 680.

    Accordingly, the law was changed during 2007 to stiffen the penalties. All armed violence committed as a part of organized group, or armed violence from ambush, which is directed at servicemen (police, officials, firemen etc.) will be processed in criminal courts. The death of victim leads to a sentence of 30 years. If incapability to work lasts over 8 days, the sentence is 15 years, and 10 years if incapability lasts under 8 days. Law also formulated a new offense called ‘ambush’, which leads to 5 year sentence, 7 years if committed in a group. The law also makes it punishable to attempt such crime, even if it didn’t succeed.

    OF POLICE ACTION AND ORGANIZATION

    The riot strategy of French police has been to flood the area with men from the first moments of disturbances. The strategy hasn’t worked, as the men have arrived only after several hours, or there’ve been too few men.

    As such, in 2008 CS companies were formed (compagnies de sécurisation), which are specialized in ZUS [‘sensitive urban zones’, ie. ghettoes] action. These are elite groups which can be mobilized immediately and sent very rapidly to even faraway areas. CS 93 is placed nearby Bourget airfield and it can be sent even to other departments [subsections or ‘states’ of France]. “If riot is occurring in some small provincial town near Paris, where there are few policemen, we can be sent in on helicopters”, explains the company leader Patrick Lunel.

    Interior Ministry has planned to create these companies in every 20 city departments. According to Minister Michéle Alliot-Marie responsible for forces, the companies are basing their strategy on flexibility, rapid reaction, mobility and knowledge of terrain. They work in three ways. First, as uniformed officers to secure ZUS areas. Second, in civilian clothing to use their equipment in studies of terrain and processes. Lastly, as strike teams, in which entire company or part of it is sent to intervene in urban riots.

    Accordingly to the experiences of Villiers-le-Bel, where some teams were separated from supporting units, Interior Ministry has implemented a stricter division of roles for different units. Riot police CRS and occasionally companies of gendarmes take the front line. More stealthily on the wings, members of BAC brigades (la brigade anticriminalité) and CS companies are deployed, with orders to arrest wreckers and weapon throwers. As they’re extremely mobile, they can surprise the rioters from behind. These units purposefully consist of a mix of men two thirds in uniform, one third in civilian clothing. “We do not implement the logic of occupying zones, such as controlling lines of passage. Instead we try to be unseen and flexible”, explains Jean-Francois Herdhuin.

    “We must respond to such collective violence we were formerly unaware of. This is no longer about upholding order or criminality. This is something in between and demands special methods. CS companies are making it possible for police to enter the zones where some refuse to enter. This is necessary for the ordinary policemen to finally do their jobs”, adds Jean-Francois Herdhuin.

    The police gear has also been significantly improved. The bullet-proof vests obligatory to everyone have been strengthened. Flash-bang weapons, capable of shooting up to 40 meters, are in use. Tasers. Helmets. “We have expertise on those moments when the situation escalates. That happens so fast, so violently, that we must be ready in a blink of an eye to initiate necessary countermeasures”, explains a police member.

    CS companies have even better gear. One company has forty vehicles, most of which are motorcycles. Infrared binoculars, which can be used to observe the movements of opponents after the rioters have cut out electricity and shut down public lighting – a maneuver they employ almost routinely by causing a short circuit.

    All details have been observed. Movable cameras, attached to either some pieces of gear (like tasers), or to the shoulder. Cordless communication equipment with which it’s possible to speak without attracting attention. Hoods to cover the faces and surprise the rioters. Ground units employ small bags of heat-generating substance. “In the middle of the night, the heat imagers of helicopters cannot differentiate rioters from policemen attempting to maneuver without being noticed. When copter passes over us, we wave those bags to be identified”, explains Lunel. Groups are also supported by UAV’s capable of monitoring the area day by night.

    POLICE INCLUDED IN URBAN PLANNING

    For over a decade, the experts of French police have been included in projects of urban planning. These subjects must be taken into account in planning ZUS zones:

    * Paving from which rioters can remove stones to be thrown is to be forbidden.

    * In front of sensitive buildings such as police stations and malls, which can be attacked by “gatebreaker” vehicles, mounds of concrete are to be sunken in.

    * The rain covers in front of buildings, used by youth to reorganize in case of bad weather, are to be removed.

    * Bridges passing over roads, on which objects can be thrown at police cars, are to be removed.

    * The lines of passages must be altered to make possible a rapid intervention of police all over the zone.

    * “The dead zones” between buildings, useful as hiding places, must be removed.

    * During riots roofs have been used to bombard public servants with rocks. Level roofs, on which stones can be stockpiled, must be replaced with slanted roofs. This also prevents movement between buildings.