Call to scrap patriotic parade appals French politicians

15th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

French politicians reacted with outrage on Friday at a presidential contender's call for the patriotic Bastille Day military parade to be scrapped.

Eva Joly, running for president for France's main environmentalist coalition, suggested the annual parade of troops and tanks down the Champs Elysees could be replaced by something more civic.

"I have dreamed that we could replace this parade with a citizens' parade where we would see school children, students and seniors parading in the pride of being together," she told AFP on Thursday.

Politicians on the left and right jumped up to defend the annual pageant, held on the July 14 public holiday, anniversary of the uprising that marked the start of the French Revolution.

"I find it pathetic... it is a deep insult to those who have died for our country over the centuries," said Henri Guiano, a top aide to President Nicolas Sarkozy, of Joly's suggestion.

Socialist presidential contender and officer's daughter Segolene Royal said it was "a very bad idea to challenge our traditions" and Socialist former prime minister Laurent Fabius said he was "fond of the July 14 parade."

"It is useful to show that we need a national defence force and that our military act for us," he said on Europe 1 radio.

Observers have been warning that France's drive for a leading role in the world is overstretching its military, with costly operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast.

"France no longer has the military means for its political ambitions," read a headline in Wednesday's edition of Le Monde newspaper.

Friday's edition of the British magazine The Economist warned France's foreign policy was "showing the strain."

Ahead of last year's July 14 parade, the head of the French chiefs of staff Edouard Guillaud said it cost about four million euros ($5.7 million).

© 2011 AFP

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