Majority of French voters AGREE with generals who threatened a coup if Macron cannot stop ‘Islamists from disintegrating society’ – after 18 officers were fired over letter
- Letter from 20 retired generals, and another 1,000 soldiers, published Sunday
- 18 serving soldiers have been sacked for signing letter which threatened coup
- But 58% of people polled by news channel LCI supported letter, 42% opposed it
- Even among Macron supporters, poll found that 46% supported the declaration
A majority of French voters have said they agree with the generals who threatened a coup if Emmanuel Macron cannot prevent the rise of radical Islam, according to new a poll.
Published last week in right-wing magazine Valuer Actuelles (Today’s Values), the explosive letter warned of the ‘disintegration’ of France because of radical Islamic ‘hordes’ living in the suburbs.
More than 1,000 retired soldiers signed the letter, including at least 18 serving officers, who were condemned as ‘absolutely revolting’ by Macron’s top general.
But, in signs of a deepening chasm between the president and the electorate, a new poll published by news channel La Chaîne Info has found that 58 per cent supported the letter, while 42 per cent were opposed.
Among respondents who vote for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) party the proportion of those who supported the letter rose to 86 per cent.
Chief of France’s Defence Staff General François Lecointre yesterday condemned those who signed the letter, calling it ‘absolutely revolting’ (Lecointre is pictured standing beside Emmanuel Macron in a car during Bastille Day ceremonies in July last year)
Army Corps General Christian Piquemal, 80, was the lead signatory of the 20 retired generals who backed the letter. He is pictured at an anti-Islam rally in Calais in 2016.
Division General Emmanuel De Richoufftz during his visit to the central Ivory Coast area of Sakassou August 29, 2003. Gen. De Richoufftz was also among the 20 generals to sign the letter.
Among voters for the centre-right Les Républicains, 71 per cent were in favour of the declaration, while even among supporters of Macron’s La République en Marche, 46 per cent backed the letter.
The lead signatory was Christian Piquemal, 80, who commanded the Foreign Legion before losing his privileges as a retired officer after being arrested while taking part in an anti-Islam demonstration in 2016.
It was written by Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, a former officer, and signed by 1,000 others who were in lower ranks.
The incendiary letter reads: ‘France is in danger. Several mortal perils threaten her. Even in retirement, we remain soldiers of France and cannot in the present circumstances remain indifferent to the fate of our beautiful country.’
The retired officers claimed that France was ‘disintegrating with the Islamists of the hordes of the banlieue [suburbs] who are detaching large parts of the nation and turning them into territory subject to dogmas contrary to our constitution’.
Macron’s government strongly condemned the letter, which was published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’etat by generals opposed to France granting independence to Algeria, its former North African colony.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said the letter by military figures was ‘against all of our republican principles, of honour and the duty of the army’.
And Florence Parly, the Defence Minister, said: ‘This is unacceptable. There will be consequences, naturally.
Le Pen was among the first politicians to welcome the letter, writing in response: ‘I invite you to join us in taking part in the coming battle, which is the battle of France.’
The RN leader, who would become head of France’s Armed Forces if she replaces Macron as president next year, was widely criticised by her opponents on both the Left and Right for her words.
However, she was yesterday joined in her support by centre-right politician Rachida Dati, mayor of Paris’ 7th arrondissement.
‘What is written in this letter is a reality,’ Ms Dati told France Info radio today. ‘When you have a country plagued by urban guerrilla warfare, when you have a constant and high terrorist threat, when you have increasingly glaring and flagrant inequalities … we cannot say that the country is doing well.’
Rachida Dati, mayor of Paris’ 7th arrondissement, said that the concerns expressed in the letter to Emmanuel Macron were valid. Ms Dati told France Info radio today: ‘When you have a country plagued by urban guerrilla warfare, when you have a very regular and very high terrorist threat, when you have increasingly glaring and flagrant inequalities … we cannot say that the country is doing well’
The 55-year-old was raised in a devoutly Muslim household by an Algerian mother and father. She has made a name for herself as a politician who takes no prisoners, infuriating left-wingers with her law-and-order crackdown as justice minister, and brushing off critics when she decided to take just three days maternity leave after the birth of her daughter.
She said that ‘the police have become a target for terrorists.’
A policewoman was stabbed to death last week in Rambouillet southwest of Paris.
Anti-terror officers said the suspect, a Tunisian national, had been watching jihadist propaganda videos prior to the attack.
Ms Dati continued: ‘I am afraid that the police will break down one day.’
Referencing the military officers’ letter, she added: ‘And if they crack, we go well beyond the disintegration of society.’
The 55-year-old served as justice minister under Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2009.
Raised in a devoutly Muslim household by Algerian immigrant parents, Ms Dati is no stranger to ruffling feathers and has been tipped to run against Macron in 2022.
She is renowned for taking no prisoners, infuriating left-wingers with her law-and-order crackdown as justice minister, and brushing off critics when she decided to take just three days maternity leave after the birth of her daughter.
Asked in September what her plans were over the next two years, Ms Dati told The Times: ‘To win the 2022 presidential election.’
France’s current Fifth Republic has been threatened by military coups in the past, notably by far-Right activists who were eventually defeated as they tried to keep Algeria in the early 1960s.
There are some five million Muslims in France – the largest community of its kind in western Europe – and many have backgrounds in former colonies, such as Algeria.
The Rassemblement National used to be called the Front National (National Front), and was founded by Ms Le Pen’s father, the convicted anti-Semite, racist and Islamophobe, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The generals calling for a coup d’état: Le Pen candidates, Yellow Vest activists and an 80-year-old who was arrested at anti-Islam rally in Calais
Christian Piquemal, stripped of his privileges by army chiefs
Piquemal, 80, a former general of the Foreign Legion, leads the signatories of the furious letter addressed to Emmanuel Macron.
He was stripped of his privileges as a retired officer after he was arrested at an anti-immigration rally in Calais in 2016.
Also in attendance were members of the anti-Islamic Pegida movement.
Christian Piquemal speaks at a rally in Calais in 2016. The rally was attended by Pegida, an anti-Islamic movement which originated in Germany
Piquemal denied knowledge that Pegida were also going to be there and denied his protest was racist.
The general was said to have been the de-facto leader of the rally but was later acquitted by a judge, while others were handed fines.
Piquemal, who retired in 2000, was stripped of his right to wear the uniform and lost his military officer’s ID card. However, his rank was not withdrawn.
Emmanuel de Richoufftz, ‘general of the suburbs’
A graduate of the prestigious Saint-Cyr military school founded by Napoleon, de Richoufftz served as aide-de-camp to French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy from 1981 to 1984.
He served in Iraq, Africa and Bosnia.
He is known as the ‘general of the suburbs’ after penning a book titled Another Late War in 1992.
Children celebrate the visit of French General Emmanuel De Richoufftz during his visit to the central Ivory Coast area of Sakassou in August, 2003
The general sought to alert the public to ‘real ghettos on the outskirts of cities’, warning that intervention was needed to integrate disadvantaged young people.
He represented Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party in local elections in Le Grau-du-Roi in 2019.
Last year he ditched Le Pen’s party to join up with Debout la France (‘France Arise’), a right-wing Euro-sceptic party.
Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, former police chief and Yellow Vest activist
Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, former police chief
Fabre-Bernadac is the manager of the Place Armes website which is ‘open to all retired, active, and reserve military personnel who love France and realise that France is on the brink.’
In 2018, he participated in Yellow Vest protests against Macron’s government.
In a recent radio appearance, Fabre-Bernadac lamented the ‘omerta’ which hangs around the issue of immigration, claiming that murders and assaults perpetrated by migrants were not given media coverage.
He called it a ‘terrible double standard.’
In another recent media appearance he said: ‘The French do not trust politicians but they trust the army.’
Antoine Martinez, former air force general
Martinez was also embroiled in the furore over the Calais rally organised by Piquemal in 2016.
He hosts the Volunteers for France website.
In a video filmed in November last year for the Volunteers for France Youtube channel, Martinez described how the coronavirus crisis masked what he believes is the more pressing matter of Islamic radicalisation.
He wrote in an accompanying article: ‘There is no point, in fact, to project our soldiers into external theatres to protect us, if our leaders give up, despite the evidence, to name the enemy, and to fight him on our soil.’
Antoine Martinez, former air force general
Francois Gaubert, Le Pen ally
Gaubert, 77, another graduate of the elite Saint-Cyr officer training college, spent four decades in the Navy on operations abroad, including in Africa, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, in Berlin after the fall of the wall and in Sarajevo, at the end of the war in Bosnia.
He retired in 2002.
He joined Front National in December 2012 and was a candidate in council elections in Montpellier.
He was elected as a councillor in 2015.
Today he is National Rally councillor in Occitanie.
The 20 generals:
Christian Piquemal, Gilles Barrie, François Gaubert, Emmanuel de Richoufftz, Michel Joslin de Noray, André Coustou, Philippe Desrousseaux de Medrano, Antoine Martinez, Daniel Grosmaire, Robert Jeannerod, Pierre Dominique Aigueperse, Roland Dubois, Dominique Delawarde, Jean Claude Grolier, Norbert de Cacqueray, Roger Prigent, Alfred Lebreton, Guy Durand and Gérard Balastre.
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