Officials sacked after Sarkozy hears jeers
By John Lichfield in Paris
Saturday, 31 January 2009
To jeer President Nicolas Sarkozy has become a serious offence, punishable by the sacking of any official who allows the boos to reach the presidential ears. The police chief and the most senior national government official in the Manche département (county) of lower Normandy have been fired in successive days, to the fury of local politicians, including members of M. Sarkozy’s own party.
The officials’ offence was to fail to shield the President from the boos and whistles of protesters when he made a speech in the town of Saint-Lô earlier this month. Their dismissal has fuelled a debate about President Sarkozy‘s increasingly autocratic behaviour. Two high-profile ministers from ethnic minorities, appointed by M. Sarkozy to much fanfare in 2007, have been placed in the political deep-freeze by the President in recent weeks. Last year he ordered the firing of a successful Corsican police chief after nationalist protesters had invaded the garden of his friend, the actor Christian Clavier.
The latest victims of presidential pique are two recently-appointed officials who had overall responsibility for public order when M. Sarkozy visited lower Normandy to speak on education reform on 12 January. About 3,000 demonstrators protested. M. Sarkozy was furious the demonstrators had been allowed to come so near that he could hear them faintly.
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