The head of French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party has threatened to withdraw support for one of their own candidates in regional elections after she wore a headscarf for a campaign poster.
The warning from Stanislas Guerini, who helped found Macron’s centrist movement in 2016, caused a rift in the governing Republic on the Move (LREM) party, with some MPs voicing open criticism.
Guerini reacted on Monday to an election poster of Sara Zemmahi, an engineer standing for the party in the southern city of Montpellier in regional elections that are set to take place on June 20 and 27.
The picture of Zemmahi, who is shown smiling in a white headscarf along with three LREM colleagues, was tweeted by the number two in France’s far-right National Rally (RN) party, Jordan Bardella.
“Wearing ostentatious religious symbols on a campaign document is not compatible with the values of LREM,” Guerini wrote late Monday in a reply to Bardella.
“Either these candidates change their photo, or LREM will withdraw its support.”
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal backed the ultimatum on France Inter radio yesterday, adding that “legally, nothing prevents someone standing in an election from displaying a religious symbol, in this case a headscarf”.
He said it was a “political choice” to have candidates who do not display their religious beliefs.
Analysts say Macron has tacked to the right in recent months with security and immigration set to be key issues in presidential elections next year.
His government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what he has termed “Islamist separatism”.
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