The spontaneous protest that broke out at the bust Gare du Nord train station in Paris last night has ignited fierce debate among the presidential candidates, from Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the 2005 riots to immigration and security. It also led to a direct war of words between Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger, Segolene Royal.
Royal began during a TV interview today:
"In five years with a rightist government that has made security its main campaign issue, you can see that it's failure all down the line....That a simple check can degenerate into a violent confrontation proves that something does not work anymore."
Sarkozy did not show any flexibility, but also sidestepped Royal's charge that it was indirectly his fault:
"If Mrs. Royal wants to regularize all illegals and if the left wants to be the side of those which do not pay their tickets in the train, it is their choice. It is not mine. I want to tell the French that I will not be on the side of fraudsters, cheats, dishonest people ... those who think that in order to get heard, they must demolish a train station and break public equipment paid for by taxpayers."
Royal got some auxiliary support from Communist Marie-George Buffet, who said that the incident was "a new illustration of the failure of Nicolas Sarkozy." However, Sarkozy's tough line was echoed by Jean-Marie Le Pen and Philippe de Villiers, who denounced immigration and "ethnic bands/barbarians" respectively.