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French political parties in row over Sarkozy's Stasi comparison

Nicolas Sarkozy compares France to a dictatorship in a Le Figaro editorial on 20 March, 2014.
Nicolas Sarkozy compares France to a dictatorship in a Le Figaro editorial on 20 March, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
2 min

France’s ruling Socialists and the main opposition UMP party ratcheted up a verbal war Friday after former President Nicolas Sarkozy likened the court-ordered tapping of his phones to the Cold War era spying of the East German Stasi police.

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An opinion piece in Le Figaro by Sarkozy drew the ire of French President Francois Hollande and sparked a squabble across parties, just days ahead of local elections to be held over the next two weekends.

The piece also broke Sarkozy’s long silence on growing corruption claims against him that are undermining any hints of a political comeback since losing the elections in 2012.

"This is not an extract of the marvellous film 'The Lives of Others' on East Germany and the activities of the Stasi. It's not the actions of a dictator against his opponents. This is France," he wrote.

Hollande swiftly responded to his predecessor and lambasted his comparison to a dictatorship.

"To raise the idea that our country, our republic, might not be founded on liberty is to introduce a doubt that is baseless," said Hollande.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls also responded as the rhetoric grew on both sides of the political spectrum.

"I am uncomfortable with the violent nature of these remarks. French society has no need for violence, it needs appeasement,” said Valls. “Comparing the French justice system and police to the East German Stasi disqualifies these comments.”

But, head of the UMP party Jean-François Copé said Sarkozy had to respond to the mounting claims and phone-tapping because he’s been the target of constant attacks for several weeks now.

“Of course I'm sorry to see this high level of tension in the public arena,” said Copé. “One cannot be aggressive enough when attacking Nicolas Sarkozy, but then it is too much when he defends himself?”
 

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