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 Post subject: First black politician to head major French party
PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2012 8:18 pm 
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Harlem Désir set to become first black politician to head major French party

MEP and former anti-racism campaigner will take leadership of the French Socialist party at a congress this weekend


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Harlem Désir set to become first black politician to lead French Socialist party


Harlem Désir, the former anti-racism campaigner, will take leadership of the French Socialist party at a congress this weekend – the first time a black politician has headed a major French party.

Désir, an MEP, shot to fame in the 1980s as a young anti-discrimination campaigner who headed the SOS Racisme movement in France, leading vast street rallies against prejudice and the rise of the far right. Born in Paris to a father from the French Caribbean island of Martinique and a mother from Alsace, he was named Harlem as a tribute to the struggles of African Americans after slavery.

In his 20s he was a feisty rights advocate who captivated TV audiences, a philosophy graduate from an ordinary background who had not studied at the elite graduate schools that dominate the political class. But now, after decades as a faithful apparatchik of the Socialist party machine, the media has criticised him for wooden, mealy-mouthed politician-speak and warned he lacked the charisma to be a potential French Barack Obama. Seen as willing to unquestioningly toe the line under François Hollande's presidency, Désir is under pressure to make his mark and spell out his vision for the party at this weekend's party congress in Toulouse.

He takes over at a moment when the Socialist party enjoys the most power it has ever had in France, holding the presidency, the parliament, the senate, and most regions and large cities. But he must also draw a line under the bitter in-fighting which has characterised the party in recent years.

Désir has come under fire from the right for a 1998 conviction and 18-month suspended prison sentence over a pay cheque for a nonexistent job which he has dismissed has an "error of youth".

Asked this week by a regional newspaper what he thought of French people's view of him as someone "quite austere", he said he defended the right to be "serious" in a time of crisis.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oc ... der-france

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