Europe

French defense minister warns against military’s politicization

Florence Parly slams far-right leader Marine Le Pen for politicizing letter by retired military leaders

Shweta Desai   | 27.04.2021
French defense minister warns against military’s politicization French Defense Minister Florence Parly ( LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/Pool - Anadolu Agency )

PARIS 

France’s defense minister has slammed far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen for politicizing the military and reiterated that "the armies are not there to campaign but to defend France.

In her first official response, Florence Parly called an open letter signed by retired military personnel that warned President Emmanuel Macron to act against a civil war-like situation in the future “irresponsible.”

The letter, published in the right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles, was endorsed by Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party, last week. She invited the military personnel to join her campaign for the 2022 presidential election. 

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Parly sought to remind the military that its action on politics is guided by “two immutable principles: neutrality and loyalty.” She said Le Pen’s words reflecting a serious misunderstanding of the military institution were worrying, as “politicization of the armies” would weaken the French military tool.

“Note that Marine Le Pen plays on a confusion that suits her: the irresponsible column published in Valeurs Actuelles is only signed by retired soldiers who no longer have any function in our armies and only represent themselves,” one of her tweets said.

The letter, signed by 20 retired generals and more than 1,000 officials of different ranks and files in the military, police and gendarmerie at the initiative of retired gendarmerie officer Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, was first published on his Place Armes blog on April 14. It was republished by Valeurs Actuelles last week. 

The letter noted growing social problems and religious extremism by “hateful and fanatic partisans” and exhorted the ruling dispensation to move beyond “dabbling and guilty silences” and act.

Following Le Pen’s appeal, the letter created a buzz in French political circles. Left wing politicians expressed concern over a possible rift between civil-political relations akin to the 1961 Algiers Putsch.

Senator Jean-Luc Melenchon, president of the left-wing populist party La France Insoumise, said on Twitter that the letter was a “staggering declaration of soldiers” who were arrogantly calling on their “active colleagues to intervene against the “leftist Islamists.” He said the factional call was punishable under the French constitution and his party was working to take legal action.

Senator Clementine Autain said the letter by the "generals" nearly 60 years after the defeated Algiers putsch is “absolutely serious.” “Its terms resonate with the grim ideological climate. This ultra-right operation and the support of Le Pen reveal the extent of the fascist threat,” she said in a tweet.

Senator Aurelien Tache from Macron’s La Republique en Marche party noted that Le Pen supported the letter challenging the state.

“Jihadist terrorism on the one hand, ultranationalism on the other; French democracy is indeed threatened,” he said.

Appearing on CNEWS, Gilbert Collard, a member of the European Parliament, however defended Le Pen, saying as a politician representing millions of French people, she had the right to say what many believe in.


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