Ethnic minority candidates to run for parliament

14th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - A French black community group said Monday it hopes to field 100 ethnic minority candidates in legislative elections next month to highlight the small number of black and Arab lawmakers.

PARIS, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - A French black community group said Monday it hopes to field 100 ethnic minority candidates in legislative elections next month to highlight the small number of black and Arab lawmakers.

Patrick Lozes, head of the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) and Rachid Nekkaz, a fringe presidential candidate, told reporters they had so far registered 73 candidates, including 31 in the Paris area.

They said they hoped to have at least 100 names by Friday, the deadline for candidates to register for the parliamentary election for which the first round is June 10.

"The French people are lucky enough to have a president of foreign origin," said Nekkaz, referring to president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy whose father was from Hungary.

"Now we need to bring diversity to all constituencies," said the 34-year-old businessman of Algerian origin who mounted a bid for the presidency but failed to win enough official endorsements to qualify for the race.

"When you walk into a university, you can see that the diversity of French society is represented," he said. "When you go to the National Assembly, nothing has changed for the past 200 years."

There are currently 10 black deputies in the 577-seat lower house National Assembly, all from French overseas territories in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean. Among the 555 elected in mainland France, none are black or of Muslim North African origin.  

Under the French electoral system, fringe candidates have little chance of being elected without striking an accord with one of the major parties, but Lozes said he wanted to raise public awareness of the problem.

He called on "all parties to include candidates from ethnic minorities on their lists, with a fair chance of being elected."

The Socialist Party is fielding around 15 candidates from ethnic minorities nationwide. Sarkozy's right wing UMP is not fielding any, but his campaign spokeswomen Rachida Dati, of north African origin, is tipped for a government post.

The 2005 riots in French suburbs cast the spotlight on discrimination against African immigrants and their children in the job market and public life, but there have been few signs of radical change.

The CRAN calls for US-style affirmative action to improve education and job prospects for black people, including a quota of eight percent of black deputies in the National Assembly.

But there is strong resistance in France to "positive discrimination" or even ethnic statistics, with critics saying it would undermine the Republican principle of equal citizenship regardless of race or religion.

As president, Sarkozy has said he would introduce some form of "positive discrimination", but based on socio-economic rather than ethnic grounds.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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