Socialists to boycott burka vote
France’s opposition Socialist Party will refuse to vote on a bill banning full-face cover, the party’s MPs decided on Tuesday ahead of the opening of the parliamentary debate on the much-publicised proposal.
“We are against the burka but we believe that the means chosen to outlaw it are not good,” party leader Martine Aubry said after telling deputies that they should not take part in the vote scheduled for 13 July.
Earlier the Socialists were against passing a law on the question, arguing that the perceived problem is “marginal” and that President Nicolas Sarkozy was exploiting it to continue the “nauseating” debate on national identity.
But, after a year of intense debate and with opinion polls showing support for the move, they have backed away from outright opposition.
Sarkozy’s UMP and its right-wing allies have enough votes to pass the bill without opposition support.
Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who is to present the bill on Tuesday, insists that the law is designed to defend France’s secular principles.
“It is not a question of religion,” she told Libération newspaper. “The republic lives with its face uncovered.”
The bill will go to the upper house, the Senate, in September.
French politicians say that the law will not only apply to French residents but also to tourists from the Middle East, some of whom can be seen shopping on Paris’s boulevards.