Hollande’s Sarkozy joke riles French opposition

French President François Hollande has riled the opposition after making a joke at the expense of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande's Sarkozy joke riles French opposition
French president François Hollande (second left), chatting with children at the annual Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris on February 23rd. Photo: Screengrab iTele

Hollande took a humorous swipe at the man he defeated in last year’s presidential elections when he paid a visit to the annual Agricultural Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture) in Paris on Saturday.

After a young boy approached him and said “I have never seen Nicolas Sarkozy”, Hollande smiled and replied “Oh well, you’ll never see him again.”

The comment was met with heartfelt laughter by all those gathered around the president, who has a reputation in France for cracking jokes.

However those on the right and especially Sarkozy’s former allies did not see the funny side.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, former spokeswoman for Sarkozy during his failed re-election bid said it was “an insult to the millions of French people who had voted for Nicolas Sarkozy”.

NKM, as she is known in France, added that the comment was proof the president is obsessed with the man he ousted from the Elysée Palace.

A furious Luc Chatel, a former government minister under Sarkozy said France needed a “president to perform his duties, not a variety performer”.

“Behind Monsieur Petite-Blagues (Mr Little Jokes) he hides a lot of pettiness towards his predecessor.”

This is not the first time a president has sparked controversy on a visit to the Salon de l’Agriculture, held at Porte de Versailles every year.

In 2007, Sarkozy famously told a farmer to “Get lost you poor idiot” after he refused to shake the then president's hand.

It is possible that Hollande’s joke at Sarkozy’s expense could come back to haunt him, with increased speculation that the former president will try to regain his place at the Elysée Palace in the 2017 presidential elections.

Members of the UMP are not likely to forget the joke in a hurry, as deputy Lionnel Luca suggested.

“Socialist arrogance and impudence,” Luca tweeted. “Rendez-vous in 2017.”

The joke may even give Sarkozy that little bit of extra incentive to wrestle back the presidency from Hollande.

"Only a court can stop Sarkozy making a comeback" – Click here to read an expert's view of the chances of Sarkozy becoming president again.

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Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

The mayor of a town in southern France has banned smoking in cars in an attempt to limit forest fires - many of which are caused by carelessly discarded cigarette butts.

Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

With France facing a hot, dry summer, some areas have already been hit by wildfires, while many others in the south of the country are on a high alert.

One of the major causes of the devastating fires is carelessly discarded cigarette butts, so the mayor of the commune of Langlade in the Gard département in south east France, has enacted a special decree banning smoking.

Smoking will be banned in a number of outdoor spaces that do not have facilities, including the town’s soccer stadium, shooting range, archery range, tennis courts – and also bans drivers from smoking in their cars. The decree is in force through the whole of the commune of Langlade.

The decree runs until July 31st and offenders risk a €15 fine – although local authorities told the Gazette de Nîmes that their main priority is raising awareness of the risk of fire from smoking, rather than handing out fines.

The Gard département has already been hit by a wildfire that destroyed several hundred acres, and firefighters have warned that the south of the country is ‘like a tinderbox’ because of the unusually early heatwave and drought that has left land parched.

READ ALSO What to do if you see a wildfire

In France smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces, but is legal in outdoor spaces such as open-air sports grounds and on the outdoor terraces of bars and cafés.

Smoking in a private vehicle is legal, as long as there are no young children in the car. Smoking while driving is not explicitly banned, but drivers can be fined if they are not in proper control of the vehicle.