French voters come out Sunday to select a presidential candidate on the Republican side. The media is putting the spin on Muslim assimilator Alain Juppe. Taking the hard line on the near total lack of Muslim assimilation is former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy has gotten the wet finger in the air and is going after more moderate Marine Le Pen voters. A good move for Sarkozy that could easily push him over the finish line to a Republican victory.
The Wall Street Journal lays out how the race shapes up with but a few days to go.
PARIS—The race to become the next president of France is becoming a referendum on what it means to be French.
As voters prepare to head to the polls Sunday for the Républicains’ primary—which could ultimately determine the next president—the rhetoric at rallies and debates has increasingly focused on whether France’s secular values are compatible with its Muslim population—one of Europe’s biggest.
The election of Donald Trump has emboldened far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen, who is campaigning against France’s socialists and conservatives on an anti-immigrant, antitrade platform similar to the U.S. president-elect’s.
Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, the front-runner in the race to win the conservatives’ nomination, embodies one path with talk of a “happy identity” for the French, grounded in respect for religious and ethnic diversity.
“I don’t believe in a happy identity when I see young people—born, raised and educated in France—who are less integrated than their grandparents, who were not French,” Mr. Sarkozy said over the weekend.
Even before Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Sarkozy’s rhetoric had taken a turn for the hard-right in an attempt to draw support from Ms. Le Pen’s base.
The former French leader has proposed that France detain thousands of people who are on intelligence watch lists but have never been charged. He has also decried a “latent form of civil war” that he blames on French nationals who descended from immigrants but failed to assimilate.
If elected, Mr. Sarkozy has pledged to require anyone seeking French citizenship to sign an “assimilation pact” committing them to adopt French values and culture. He has also proposed cutting welfare benefits to women who ignore bans on face-covering veils. Simple head scarves, Mr. Sarkozy says, should also be banned on university campuses.
Mr. Sarkozy says he plans to hold public referendums to override constitutional rights that allow immigrants to bring family members to France and prevent authorities from detaining people on intelligence watch lists before getting a court order.