A top figure in the Socialist party, Arnaud Montebourg is putting pressure on party leaders to not support candidates over 67, saying that new challenges require new blood. Not surprisingly, the proposal has sparked some heated debate -- and exposed a gen
PARIS – The proposal set some French politicians' teeth on edge. Arnaud Montebourg, a top Socialist Party leader, wrote a letter to party chief Martine Aubry suggesting that any Socialist politicians who was 67-years-old or over be asked not to run for Parliament. Ahead of the next legislative elections in June 2012, Montebourg says he wants to rejuvenate the political class.
"Is it normal that socialist MPs, who maybe were elected in 1978 or 1981, who are approaching the end of their seventh or eighth term, reaching the respectable age of 68, 69, 70, 71, 72 or 73, declare they want to be reelected?" Montebourg writes in his letter to Aubry. "The world is changing so fast that rules that applied as recently as 10 years ago are now obsolete."
The proposal got some grumpy responses – especially MPs targeted by Montebourg like former ministers Laurent Fabius and Jack Lang. The latter, who is 72, and a member of the National Assembly, defiantly declared himself ready to run for a new mandate. "Were we to follow your criteria, (Georges) Clemenceau, who was 76 in 1917, wouldn't have been able to carry France to victory during World War I ... (Charles) de Gaulle, who was 75 in 1965, couldn't have been reelected and François Mitterrand, 71, couldn't have run for president in 1988."
Montebourg brushes the controversy aside. "Jack Lang is a very respectable man, but after all these years, wouldn't it make more sense for him to be a mentor for younger representatives?"
The proposal was studied "in an electric atmosphere" last week at a meeting of the Socialist Party. Martine Aubry for one did not appreciate the way her former rival at the Socialist primary elections shared the proposal with journalists before even discussing it internally. Montebourg is "trying to be popular," Aubry said, regardless of whether it is "in the interests of the party."
Montebourg is holding firm. "One or two people were outraged by it. But new ideas cannot be supported by a generation who was in charge 30 years ago," he declares.
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Photo – LCP