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POLITICS

Sarkozy egged by Basque separatists

French President Nicolas Sarkozy took refuge in a bar Thursday after hundreds of Basque separatists and opposition Socialist party supporters mobbed him and some shouted insults and threw eggs.

Riot police deployed outside the Bar du Palais in Bayonne, in the southwestern Basque region, where Sarkozy was on the campaign trail to seek re-election in a presidential vote in April and May.

Some of the protestors jeered and booed and threw eggs at the bar while others shouted “Nicolas kampora!”, which in the Basque language means “Nicolas get out!”, and threw out tracts calling for more Basque autonomy.

The president was booed from the moment he got out of his car in the centre of the city and was followed by a jeering crowd all the way to the bar, where he had been scheduled to meet with local voters.

He remained in the bar for an hour while police held off the protestors, some of whom were brandishing the electoral programme of the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

Sarkozy, who was due in Brussels later Thursday for a European Council meeting, condemned the incident and put the blame partly on the party of his frontrunning rival.

“I am saddened to see Hollande’s Socialist militants associating with (Basque) separatists in violent protests to terrorise ordinary people who want just one thing: to meet and talk with me,” he said.

His campaign spokeswoman Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet accused the Socialists of organising “street protests” against the president.

But Manuel Valls, a senior member of Hollande’s campaign team, said that while his boss condemned any violence, no Socialist was involved in the Bayonne incident.

The Basque region straddles southwestern France and northern Spain. ETA, a separatist movement which called an end to its armed struggle last year, is blamed for 829 deaths during a four-decade campaign of shootings and bombings for an independent Basque homeland.

Hollande was Thursday holding his third major campaign rally in the eastern city of Lyon.

An opinion poll published Tuesday by IFOP said the Socialist would take 28.5 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election in late April, against 27 percent for President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen would come in third with 17 percent, it said.

POLITICS

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

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