Nicolas Bonaparte Strikes Again!
The latest victims of presidential pique are two recently-appointed officials who had overall responsibility for public order when M. Sarkozy visited lower Normandy to speak on education reform on 12 January. About 3,000 demonstrators protested. M. Sarkozy was furious the demonstrators had been allowed to come so near that he could hear them faintly.
He was heard to say at the time: "Quel con, ce préfet." (What an arsehole, this prefect is.) A prefect is a governor appointed by the state to oversee the administration of each département. On Thursday, it was announced that the prefect of the Manche département, Jean Charbonniaud, was being moved to another job.
Yesterday it emerged that the director of police in the Manche, Philippe Bourgade, had also been told to "look for another post".
This is somewhat ironic since Saint Lô was placed top of a nationwide ranking of police efficiency in 2008 in a poll for the newspaper Le Figaro, with double the national average of crimes solved, especially when you consider that Sarkozy made his name as a tough-talking interior minister obsessed with quantifying police efficiency.
Of course Sarkozy had the right to demote those men. But his actions were totally disproportionate. As the fired police chief said,
"What was so terrible about what happened? The President heard a few whistles, that's all."
Outrage has followed of course, and not just in the opposition. Even members of Sarkozy’s own party have been critical:
"It is lamentable if representatives of the state are being treated like Kleenex. It's scandalous," said Jean-François Le Grand, UMP head of the Manche county council.
This is nothing to be surprised about :
Last year the president ordered the firing of a successful Corsican police chief after nationalist protesters had invaded the garden of his friend, the actor Christian Clavier.