The French National Assembly on Friday sanctioned a far-right National Rally MP by temporarily banning him from the institution and cutting his pay for shouting “Go back to Africa” as a Black MP spoke during a parliamentary session.
The remark by Gregoire de Fournas, a lawmaker from Marine Le Pen’s opposition National Rally (RN), while left-wing MP Carlos Martens Bilongo was asking a question on immigration, triggered an uproar on Thursday, bringing the day’s session to a halt.
France’s centrist government, the left and the mainstream right said the remark was an unacceptable racist slur.
The far right denied that de Fournas had aimed his words at Martens Bilongo, saying he was referring to migrants from Africa currently stranded on an NGO boat in the Mediterranean, and that there was nothing wrong with that.
National Assembly President Yael Braun-Pivet said after the assembly voted for the sanctions, with all but RN lawmakers in favour of the move that Free democratic debate does not allow everything… and especially not racism, whoever the target is.
De Fournas will lose half of his salary for two months and will be banned from entering the assembly for 15 days. It was only the second such sanction imposed by the parliament.
Martens Bilongo, from the leftist France Unbowed party, had called for tough action over what he called “shameful” comments.
Le Pen and her party – the second largest in the assembly with 89 lawmakers – rejected accusations of racism and instead accused their opponents of misrepresenting what de Fournas said.