France to increase troops in Central African Republic
The real Socialists are the FN, the 48-year old claims in one of many one-liners that trip off the former boxers tongue rhetoric far removed from that of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the party. Mr Lopez is sitting in an office in the centre of Brignoles, population 17,000, in the heart of the Var department, southeastern France, which has shot from obscurity to the epicentre of French politics. Until last weekend, Brignoles, with its winding medieval streets and surrounding vineyards, was better known for its dried prunes. Last Sunday, however, the far-Right candidate came top in the first round of county elections, taking more than 40 per cent of the vote to knock out the incumbent Communists and win twice as many votes as his mainstream Right-wing UMP rival. Related Articles France election: Hollande reaches out to far-Right 24 Apr 2012 Today , Mr Lopez is odds-on favourite to clinch the run-off and take control of the canton of Brignoles, which comprises the main town and five surrounding villages. In the past, if you said you were FN you were treated as a fascist, racist or Nazi. Now people are in the process of losing their inhibitions about the FN, he said. In the streets of Brignoles, people were open about their support. Patrice Duliba, 57 and his wife Geraldine, 58, are florists just yards from the campaign offices of the FN candidate and Catherine Delzers, his UMP rival. Our mind is made up to vote for Lopez in round two. We dont know if he will bring anything new, but its worth a try, said Mr Duliba. Perhaps hell then become mayor. If we dont give him the chance to show what he promises, it would be a shame. Some might call it overblown to give a county by-election national importance particularly given the abstention rate of 67 per cent. But this has been no ordinary week in French politics. On Thursday, a poll suggested that the FN would top European Parliament elections next May, pulling ahead of the two mainstream parties for the first time in a nationwide vote.
“We currently have 410 men. As UN resolutions are passed, we will lend a hand with logistics in particular and boost” the French troop presence, he said after meeting Central African President Michel Djotodia. “This will most likely be achieved by the end of the year,” Fabius said. Diplomats have told AFP that the former colonial power could boost its contingent to up to 1,200 troops, in support of a small pan-African peacekeeping force deployed in the country. Western powers have reluctantly recognised Djotodia, the leader of the now disbanded Seleka rebel group that toppled Francois Bozize in March, as the country’s first Muslim president. In exchange, Djotodia has formed an inclusive government and pledged not to run in elections due to mark the end of an 18-month interim period in early 2015. “There has been a demand that the authorities organise free polls at the beginning of 2015 and not contest them,” he said. France has voiced concern that the Central African Republic (CAR), which sits on vast mineral wealth but remains one of the world’s poorest countries, risked becoming another Somali-style “failed state”. “We — France, the European Union and the United Nations — have decided to take up the challenge. We will not let you down, we will tackle this situation seriously,” Fabius said. The impoverished landlocked country is a little larger than France but sparsely populated and Djotodia is facing the same difficulty as his predecessors in extending his authority beyond the capital. Chaos followed Bozize’s ouster and reports of widespread summary executions, looting and abuses against civilians spurred the international community into action. Former Seleka commanders gone rogue have established mini-fiefdoms scattered across the country in which they sew terror. In some areas, villagers have responded by forming vigilantes, some of which have specifically targeted Muslims.
France’s far-Right FN party odds on to top local election polls
“We cannot have armed bands roaming the country,” Fabius told a news conference in the riverside capital. “We will not let you down.” The French minister and EU’s aid chief, who were greeted by crowds in Bangui, some holding banners urging France to not to abandon the former colony, met transitional leader Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye. Djotodia, who was formally sworn in as the transitional president in August, has an 18-month deadline, set by central African heads of state, to organize elections. He has said he will not run in the election. A senior Central African Republic military official said the country was counting on France because the regional peacekeeping force was not visible on the ground and the population was losing faith in them. “What we need is more French troops with a clear mandate,” the official said, requesting not to be identified. However, while the leaders work out how to secure the country enough to hold an election, the situation on the ground continues to get worse, with malnutrition and tuberculosis taking hold and a lack of resources to help patients in need. “We need a massive plan on health and education, but most important, something must be done about insecurity. Outside the capital it is a cancer,” a surgeon at the only pediatric hospital in Bangui – protected by French troops to stop looting – told the delegation. The EU’s Georgieva said the crisis in Central African Republic was unique because it had hit the entire population. “The priority is security, security, security.