French Back Sarkozy Crime, Immigrant Crackdown—-Poll

French back Sarkozy crime, immigrant crackdown-poll

Reuters, August 5, 2010

ARIS, Aug 5 (Reuters) – French people overwhelmingly support tough new measures proposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy to fight crime, delinquency and illegal immigration, a poll showed on Thursday.

Sarkozy unveiled the measures last week in a bid to shore up support ahead of 2012 elections, amid a series of political scandals and unpopular economic reforms that have pushed his popularity to record lows.

Opposition parties accused him of trying to divert attention from his woes with populist steps that make a clear link between youth crime and immigration, but the poll by Ifop for the daily Le Figaro suggested a big majority of citizens support him.

The survey of 1,003 people showed that 89 percent agree with Sarkozy's plan to force repeat criminals to wear electronic tags for years after they have served time for their crimes.

Some 80 percent backed his plan to strip French nationality from citizens with a foreign background who practise polygamy or promote female circumcision, and 70 percent favoured the same penalty for people with immigrant roots found guilty of killing a policeman.

Sarkozy announced the proposals in the southeastern city of Grenoble, the scene of mid-July riots sparked by the death of a man of Arab origin who was fleeing the police.

Opposition parties, human rights groups and unions announced this week that they would stage major demonstrations across France on Sept. 4 to protest against security measures they have condemned as xenophobic.

Sarkozy earned a reputation for being tough on crime when he was interior minister at a time of widespread riots in immigrant neighbourhoods surrounding Paris in 2005, and rode that image to victory in the 2007 presidential election.

But the conservative leader has failed to reduce violent crime since taking office and many of France's immigrant-heavy 'banlieues', or suburbs, remain stricken by high youth unemployment, poor public services and drug trafficking.

In an interview to appear in the Friday edition of Grazia magazine, Sarkozy's former justice minister, Rachida Dati, criticised the government, saying its anti-crime drive had not been successful.

'It's true that a majority of French feel that youth crime has increased … that something is not working. For the past three years, attacks on people have risen and they are more violent than in the past,' Dati, a French-born daughter of Moroccan and Algerian parents, was quoted as saying.