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Who are their historical heroes?

Published on March 27, 2007

PARIS, March 27, 2007 (AFP) - An executed hero from World War II, a feminist martyr from the Revolution, a murdered monarch and a saint burned at the stake for heresy: these are the political heroes of France's leading presidential candidates. Strangely, they all died violent deaths.

The contenders were asked by Historia magazine to say which figures from history most inspired them.

Rightwing favourite Nicolas Sarkozy chose Georges Mandel, a Jewish minister in the pre-war government who was imprisoned in 1940 after he tried to rally anti-German forces in French Morocco. He was later murdered by pro-Nazi French militia members.

Sarkozy, who has written a biography of Mandel, praised his “courage, lucidity and exceptional determination”.

Socialist candidate Segolene Royal selected Olympe de Gouges, who “freed herself from the conformity of her times.”

De Gouges was a thinker and journalist who in 1791 wrote the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen” — described as the first major feminist text. She supported the early stages of the Revolution but was guillotined in 1793.

Centrist Francois Bayrou chose Henri IV, the king who reconciled Protestants and Catholics at the end of France’s Wars of Religion but was assassinated in 1610. Bayrou has written a biography of the king, who like him was a native of the Bearn region of the Pyrenees.

For Jean-Marie Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, the greatest inspiration is Joan of Arc, who fought against the English in the Hundred Years War before being captured and killed at Rouen in 1431. She was canonised in 1920.

Of the other candidates, the Green Dominique Voynet chose Nelson Mandela, Trotskyist Olivier Besancenot Che Guevara, Communist Marie-Georges Buffet African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks and Catholic nationalist Philippe de Villiers Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The Trotskyist Arlette Laguiller selected “homo erectus who 500,000 years ago invented fire and changed the future of humanity.”

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news