France The lower house of parliament suspended its session on Thursday after an MP from the far-right chanted, “Go back to Africa!” As a black lawmaker from the far left he asked a question about immigration.
The comment created a sensation. The centrist government and the left coalition said it was an unacceptable racist insult. Far-right MP Gregoire de Fornas argued that he is not addressing the MP who asked the question, Carlos Martins Bilongo, but to migrants stranded on an NGO boat.
There is no place for racism in our democracy. “The office of the National Assembly will meet (on Friday) and it should decide on the necessary punishment,” Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne told reporters after the incident.
De Fornas, a member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, and his party argued that he had said nothing wrong.
“Speak clearly about the migrants who are being transported by NGOs in boats,” Le Pen wrote on Twitter. “The controversy created by our political opponents … will not deceive the French.”
Bilongo saw it quite differently, calling the comment “shameful”. “Today, I have my skin tone restored. I was born in France. I am a French deputy.
Stéphane Sejourn, who leads President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, said de Fornas should resign, and the left-wing Nobis coalition said he should be fired.
Over the past years, Le Pen has made significant progress in detoxifying her party’s image and persuading voters that the party founded by her father Jean-Marie, who was convicted several times of inciting racial hatred, has moved toward the conservative current and is now fit to govern.
With 89 lawmakers, the RN is the second largest party in Parliament.
Jordan Bardella, a close ally of Le Pen, is expected to take over as party leader on Saturday – even if Le Pen is still the decision maker.
“The National Rally has shown its true face today,” the left-wing Nobis coalition said in a statement. “This racist slur is characteristic of the far right: stigmatized by the color of your skin, and swearing by the French people.”