Two-thirds of French back culture minister in sex tourism row
Two-thirds of French people want Frederic Mitterrand to keep his job despite fierce opposition attacks over his past as a sex tourist in Asia, a poll showed Monday.
Paris -- Two-thirds of French people want Frederic Mitterrand to keep his job despite fierce opposition attacks over his past as a sex tourist in Asia, a poll showed Monday.
The 62-year-old Mitterrand was forced to explain in a television interview watched by eight million viewers that he did not condone sex tourism and that the Asian "boys" he referred to in his 2005 book “La Mauvause Vie”, had been consenting adults.
France's far-right National Front and some in the opposition Socialist party have been clamouring for the resignation of the minister, who exposed himself to attack by defending the fugitive film-maker Roman Polanski.
But a poll conducted in the two days after his prime-time interview on Thursday found that 67% of the French public though he should keep his post in President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing government.
Only one in five thought the minister should resign, while 13 percent had no opinion, according to the BVA poll of 1,005 people.
For BVA analyst Gael Sliman, the vote of confidence mirrors the largely sympathetic media coverage of Mitterrand's interview, which he said had been enough to deflect the most serious accusation of child abuse.
"As a politician in France, you can sleep around, have affairs, visit prostitutes - people are ready to accept that," he said.
"What they will absolutely not accept is the idea of paedophilia. But in this case the public decided to give him the benefit of the doubt."
A new row threatened to engulf the minister at the weekend following reports that he offered to help rehabilitate two youths charged with the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl on the French island of La Reunion.
The minister on Saturday said he was godfather to one of the youths and underlined that his letter was a "gesture of compassion and generosity" to a "modest" family in "great distress."
Mitterrand has threatened legal action over the disclosure of the letter.
France's Tourism Minister Herve Novelli said Monday the government's drive to combat sex tourism was still on track, after industry experts told RTL radio officials were considering shelving it until the scandal blew over.
"That is untrue," Novelli said, adding that he hoped to launch a campaign in partnership with tour operators and child protection groups in the coming months.