Thursday, November 22, 2012

New leader of French conservatives tougher on immigration

“The Republican Dilemma in French” is what some pundits have dubbed the recent fight for control of France’s UMP (conservative) party formerly led by Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. Very much like the Republican Party in the U.S. after its defeat for the presidency, the UMP in the six months since Sarkozy was defeated has been undergoing a struggle for its soul between its business-oriented Establishment faction and that comprised of more grass-roots activists — the French equivalent of the tea party — who want a harder line on “red meat” issues such as immigration.

On Tuesday, it appeared as though the latter group had emerged triumphant. In the race to succeed Sarkozy as party president, Jean-Francois Cope—mayor of the working-class town of Meaux (near Paris) and a deputy (congressman)—campaigned as the candidate who would make the UMP the party of what he called “an uninhibited right.”

The rise to political leadership of someone who makes no secret being on the right in a party that has been historically “center right” could well be a harbinger of the path other conservative parties in Western democracies may take. It may also be the beginning of a bid for president of France by Cope himself, whose ambition is widely known.

Denouncing what he called “anti-white racism” in immigrant communities and calling for all-out opposition to Socialist President Francois Hollande’s plan to legalize same-sex marriage, the 48-year-old Cope apparently edged out the favorite of the “establishment,” former Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Although the 58-yar-old Fillon’s supporters claimed figures showing their man with the lead, the final count gave Cope a wafer-thin win—by 98 votes out of more than 175,000 cast by party members.

The results made headlines worldwide in part because polls had shown the urbane intellectual Fillon—who spoke of being more “a pedagogue than a demagogue”—a clear front-runner. Both candidates had close ties to Sarkozy, Fillon having been the former president’s prime minister throughout his tenure (2002-07) and Cope his government’s top spokesman for five years.

But Cope, as the BBC reported last week, “sits further to the right of the former president, particularly on immigration.” As secretary general (chairman) of the UMP since 2010, Cope (who is Jewish) began a debate on Islam in France and said that integration of Muslims in France had failed. He also raised eyebrows by tweeting a claim that a child had been robbed of his “pain au chocolat” pastry by “thugs” who were enforcing the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

More than a few observers said this approach was a not-so-subtle way of courting voters who had backed the anti-immigration National Front, whose leader Marine LePen drew a stunning 17 percent of the vote and third place in the race for president this year, which was eventually won by Hollande.

“Cope’s ghoulish French kissing the National Front is a crippled echo of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy,” Craig Copetas, Paris-based correspondent-at-large for Quartz/The Atlantic Group and author of the acclaimed “Mona Lisa’s Pajamas,” told Human Events, referring to the 37th president’s courtship of Southern voters on the issue of opposing school busing.

But Cope also called for all-out opposition to the Socialist Hollande on the issues of same-sex marriage and the president’s plan to tax people with annual incomes of 1 million Euros or more at a rate of 75 percent. In his words, “we need la resistance against a president who is in the process of paralyzing all economic activity in the country.”

Cope has made no secret of his desire to run for president against Hollande in 2017. As far back as 1991, in fact, he told guests at his wedding: “You’re lucky you’re at the wedding of a future president.” The marriage ended in divorce, but it seems quite obvious that the groom still harbors the ambitions he spoke of at his wedding


Asylum-seeker flood sinks Australian Labor Party's offshore processing policy

THE Gillard government has admitted its Pacific Solution has been overwhelmed, declaring asylum-seekers arriving since the policy was announced will be allowed to live in the Australian community.

As Papua New Guinea's Manus Island processing centre received its first detainees today, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen conceded Nauru and Manus would not be able to accommodate all the asylum-seekers intercepted since the August 13 policy announcement.

He said the government's new “no-advantage” principle would therefore have to be applied to the overflow of unauthorised arrivals brought to Australia.

The principle requires asylum-seekers to wait for a refugee visa for as long as they would have if they had waited offshore to be settled through official channels.

“Accordingly, some of these people will be processed in the Australian community,” Mr Bowen said in Sydney.

“They will not, however, be issued with a permanent protection visa if found to be a refugee, until such time that they would have been resettled in Australia after being processed in our region,” Mr Bowen said.

“People arriving by boat are subject to this `no advantage' principle, whether that means being transferred offshore to have their claims processed, remaining in detention, or being placed in the community.”

Asylum-seekers settled in the community will be placed on bridging visas without work rights and would receive only basic accommodation assistance, Mr Bowen said.

Nauru and Manus Island will accommodate about 2100 asylum-seekers when at full capacity.

About 7000 asylum-seekers have arrived since the new Pacific Solution was announced.

Mr Bowen said all post-August 13 unauthorised arrivals would be processed according on the no-disadvantage principle, even if they were processed in Australia.

He said their status as offshore entrants would be unchanged, and “consideration can be given to transfer these people offshore at a future date”.

A charter flight arrived on Manus Island early today from Christmas Island with 19 asylum-seekers aboard.

The group of seven families from Sri Lanka and Iran, including 15 adults and four children, were accompanied by Australian Federal Police officers, Department of Immigration personnel, interpreters and medical staff.

Mr Bowen also announced the transfer of 100 Sri Lankan men back to Colombo today, the ninth and largest involuntary removal to date.

The transfers come amid growing unrest on Nauru, where 387 asylum-seekers are housed in conditions that have been condemned by Amnesty International.

The human rights body has also expressed concern about nine asylum-seekers who have been on a hunger strike, including one who has not eaten for 40 days.

Tony Abbott said he was “all in favour” of offshore processing but did not believe Labor's plan would stop the boats.

“This government just doesn't have its heart in it,” Mr Abbott said.

“And for this government to say, oh look at the (19) that have gone to Manus when you've got 2000-plus coming every month demonstrates that they just don't get it.”

The Opposition Leader said people who came to Australia could not expect “to be treated like they are staying in a four or five star hotel”.

“The people who have come illegally to this country need to know that they are breaking our laws and that they are, if I may say so, taking unfair advantage of our decency as a people,” Mr Abbott said.

“It is illegal to come to Australia without papers, without proper documentation, without adhering to the normal requirements that we expect of people coming to this country.”


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