PARIS (AFP) – President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government turns its sights on the troubled suburbs this week, launching a nationwide drive for a new plan that would give immigrant youth a stake in changing France. Nearly two years after the “banlieues” exploded into rioting, Sarkozy has tasked his urban affairs minister and outspoken rights activist Fadela Amara with drafting a set of measures to address joblessness and discrimination. The daughter of Algerian immigrants who grew up in one of France’s rundown housing projects, Amara has released a rough draft of what she has dubbed an “anti-loafing” plan to prevent bored and excluded youth from rebelling.
PRINCETON, NJ — Hopes that France’s recent legislative elections would result in greater ethnic representation to reflect the country’s diversity were dashed when only one of the 555 National Assembly seats for metropolitan France went to a minority candidate. But at the Hôtel Matignon, the government’s Paris headquarters, the situation looked a bit brighter for advocates of diversity. Three individuals visibly identifiable as minorities out of 19 portfolios now hold minister-level posts. And President Nicolas Sarkozy’s highest profile appointment went to Rachida Dati, a female lawyer of North African ancestry, who heads the Justice Ministry.
President Nicolas Sarkozy hastily altered his month-old government on Tuesday, adding women, ethnic minorities and members of rival parties to his cabinet after the second round of the parliamentary elections. The president – reviled by many minority youths because of his law-and-order crackdowns and demeaning comments – gave two junior positions to women of immigrant origin. Rama Yade, a 30-year-old French woman of Senegalese origin, will be the youngest member of the government and in charge of human rights under Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Fadela Amara, whose parents came to France from Algeria and who founded an advocacy group for Muslim women (Ni Putes Ni Soumises), will be in charge of urban planning.
President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday sent a strong signal to France’s disaffected minorities by appointing an outspoken advocate of Muslim women and a woman of Senegalese origin Tuesday to his government – among France’s most diverse ever. As junior minister for city policy, feminist activist Fadela Amara will oversee the renovation of dilapidated housing estates where many immigrants live – neighborhoods similar to the one she grew up in with her Algerian immigrant parents. Senegalese-born Rama Yade was appointed to a new post of junior minister for human rights, an area Sarkozy has identified as a priority for his month-old government, which he reshuffled and expanded Tuesday after his governing conservative party did not fare as well as expected in weekend parliamentary elections.
Women hold a record number of seats in the new French parliament, including the first ever black female deputy elected on the mainland, but legislative elections Sunday failed to radically shift the balance in a chamber still dominated by white men. Political parties on the left and right were under pressure to boost the share of women and black and Arab lawmakers in the National Assembly. They can claim a partial success: 107 of the assembly’s 577 seats went to women candidates, a jump of 31 deputies compared to the outgoing chamber. With 18.5 percent of seats now held by women, France lifts its country ranking in terms of women’s representation in parliament from an embarrassing 86th to 58th spot, in between Venezuela and Nicaragua. Coming after Segolene Royal’s failed bid to become France’s first woman president, the result — which ushers in 61 women lawmakers on the left and 46 on the right — was greeted as a step in the right direction. It also follows the appointment by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France’s first government with gender parity, with seven of 15 cabinet posts held by women, a balance expected to remain following this week’s government reshuffle. But Le Monde newspaper said the improved number of women in parliament — lifting France just above the European average of 17.7 percent — was in itself “nothing to be proud of.” France sought to boost the number of women in parliament with a 2000 law obliging parties to field an equal number of men and women candidates, but it has only been partly followed despite heavy fines for offending parties.
French parliamentary elections failed to provide the hoped-for boost in the number of black and Arab lawmakers, with voters returning just one minority candidate from the mainland. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party had 12 minority candidates running for election, mostly in the Paris region, and the opposition Socialists had 20 vying for seats. But the only one to win was George Pau-Langevin, a black lawyer from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, who was elected to a seat in eastern Paris on a Socialist Party ticket. Fifteen other black deputies were elected to the 577-seat National Assembly, all in overseas territories where the majority of the population is black. Although France is home to Europe’s biggest Muslim community, with about five million people, mainly descendants of immigrants from north and sub-Saharan Africa, no candidates of African origin were elected. “We regret that the republic’s diversity will not be represented in the National Assembly, because political parties did not give it enough importance,” the French Council of Muslim Democrats said in a statement Monday.
By Hadi Yahmid PARIS – France is waking up to the reality that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s tough line on immigration during his election campaign was no rhetoric, with a new bill restricting immigration under the family reunions law just waiting for the new parliament to be elected. “This new bill gives more credence to our earlier fears of the new government’s immigration policies,” Xavier Aminton, an immigration expert with the French League of Human Rights, told IslamOnline.net. A few weeks in the job, new Immigration and National Identity Brice Hortefeux is already putting the final touches on a new bill to amend the 5-year-old family reunification law.