The departmental elections ( one of the local levels of state administration ) will take place in the summer of 2021. Two local candidates of the presidential majority have faced online backlash after a member of the extreme-right party Rassemblement National (RN) vehemently criticized the presence of a veiled woman as second substitute on the posters of the candidates. His twitter post reads : « Is this fighting against separatism? »

Many other politicians reacted online or during press statements and TV interviews. The general delegate of the presidential majority, the LREM party, Stanislas Guerini, replied on twitter … to condemn the candidates. of his own party! Adopting the same rationale than the RN, he explained that “the values of the LREM party are not compatible with the visibility of religious signs”. In his view, the LREM candidates face a choice : either they change the picture (that is to say to a non-veiled candidate) or they are excluded from the party .

Later on, the LREM leaders did not change their positions but their justifications. They initially implied that the veiled candidates did not comply to the French conception of secularism. However, according to laïcité, religious neutrality prevents to take position on the religious identity of political candidates or elected ones. That is why they later argued that their rejection was a political rather than a secular one. Up to this day, the local candidates stated they would rather jointly retire their candidatures than exclude their Muslim colleague. 

Such controversy illustrates the political shift of the LREM on security, migration and Islam. In the 2022 presidential elections, the outgoing majority of President Macron will probably in the second round of the electoral process face the extreme-right party Rassemblement National . From this perspective, the existing strategy of the LREM seems to follow the RN position, by emphasising the (supposed) incompatibility between Islam and secularism.

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Sources

 

https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/politique/foulard-voile-musulman-islamique-elections-lrem-montpellier-departementales-1620739956

 

https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2021/05/14/des-elections-regionales-devenues-l-antichambre-de-la-campagne-presidentielle_6080146_823448.html

 

https://www.francetvinfo.fr/politique/front-national/tweet-de-stanislas-guerini-pourquoi-une-femme-voilee-a-le-droit-detre-candidate-et-meme-elue_4619953.html