"I have a dream of replacing this parade with a citizens’ parade where we would see school children, college students and seniors filing past, happy to be together and celebrating the values that bind us,” Joly said on Thursday while a column of tanks and other armoured vehicles rolled past Bastille Square.
The Norwegian-born former magistrate who earned a reputation in the 1990s as a tough investigator during the Elf scandal made her remarks in front of a gathering of union groups, politicians and former resistance fighters.
"These are not the values we share. I think the time has come to cancel these July 14 military parades because they belong to another time,“ she added, lambasting what she called "a warlike France.“
The criticism of her remarks was fast and furious. Parliamentarian Jacques Myard, a member of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), called the idea of a citizens’ parade ridiculous.
“She forgets that a country is also made up of its army,” he told Europe 1. “They should have the right to be recognized through a parade, which is an important symbol of the link between the people and the armed forces.”
Marc Laffineur, state secretary for veterans’ affairs, said he was “shocked” by Joly’s suggestion, adding that her idea was especially unfortunate just after six French soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan.
“The parade on July 14th pays homage to all the effort and the sacrifices made by our soldiers,” he said.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen of the National Front called Joly’s recommendations "absolutely appalling,“ casting doubt on her "Frenchness“ and the legitimacy of her run for the presidency.
"I don’t think it’s legitimate to run for the presidency of the Republic when one has become French rather belatedly and when, just a few months ago, one was providing advice to the Norwegian government.“
Joly was born Gro Eva Farseth in Oslo in 1943 and came to the France at the age of 20 as an au pair. She married the son of the family that employed her and later became an investigating judge.
Even those on the left side of the political spectrum kept their distance from Joly’s remarks. Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal, both running in the socialist party primaries, said the military parade tradition should be upheld.