French President Nicolas Sarkozy was accused on Friday of behaving like an autocrat after two local officials were dismissed for allowing noisy protests during a visit he made to a northern town this month.
Opposition Socialists and even some members of Sarkozy's own centre-right UMP party criticised the "scandalous" removal of the two officials who were blamed for not stopping a protest from disrupting Sarkozy's visit to the town of Saint Lo on Jan. 12.
"You feel as though you're living in another age," said Marisol Touraine, a Socialist parliamentary deputy with party responsibility for security issues. "This is like some prince ruling from on high in its arbitrariness."
The removals followed a case last year when a senior security official in Corsica was sacked after nationalist demonstrators briefly occupied a holiday villa owned by one of Sarkozy's close friends.
Jean Charbonniaud, the prefect or local administrator for Saint Lo, was removed from his post while local police official Philippe Bourgade was transferred after the incident, in which protestors booed Sarkozy.
The president had been in the town to make a speech on education. Although the protesters were kept at some distance, their booing was clearly audible while Sarkozy was speaking and it featured heavily on evening news bulletins.
Even some local politicians in Sarkozy's own centre-right UMP party denounced the dismissals.
"I think it's absolutely dreadful that a representative of the state can be dealt with like a used Kleenex. It's scandalous," Jean-Francois Legrand, president of the regional council, told France 3 television.
But government spokesman Luc Chatel defended the move.
"The visit of the president did not take place under the best conditions," he told France Info radio. "Not just for the president. We were also informed about the manner in which the demonstrators themselves were treated. I imagine that this might have been taken into account," he said.
Last Mod: 31 Ocak 2009, 13:59