February 27, 2024

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Who is Rachida Dati, the new French Minister of Culture, “with a great evil spirit”?

Who is Rachida Dati, the new French Minister of Culture, “with a great evil spirit”?

The appointment of Rachida Dati as Minister of Culture causes a stir in France, just as Dati always causes a stir everywhere. The star of French politics, who is very close to former President Sarkozy, is under investigation on corruption charges.

Ellen Huisman

President Macron has single-handedly succeeded in increasing political extremism, on both the left and the right. This is not a “philosophical analysis”, but a “fact”. An alliance with his party En Marche (now Renaissance) is the “kiss of death.” Dixit Rachida Dati, the new Minister of Culture in the new French government, a few years ago.

Dati, who as of Thursday was still a senior member of the conservative right-wing Republican Party, was immediately expelled from her party after her appointment as minister was announced. In addition to being mayor of Paris's chic 7th arrondissement, Dati was also chairman of the LR board. She assured herself that she would give up the last position, but would remain with the party. However, she decided to lead differently: by joining Macron, Dati placed herself outside her political family.

Wherever there is Rachida Dati, there is commotion. This applies far beyond her now former party. She became known to the general public as Minister of Justice under former President Nicolas Sarkozy seventeen years ago. the Rock star Politics, as the French media describe it, is envied, admired and hated for its destructive ambition and harsh attacks on political opponents. But above all, there are suspicions of corruption that make her return as minister a surprise to the new government.

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Various studies

What role does Dati play in the case surrounding Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Renault-Nissan? There is an international arrest warrant against Ghosn in connection with fraud investigations, among other matters. He is also said to have used company funds for private spending, including paying for a party at the Palace of Versailles.

Under his leadership, Dati, who trained as a lawyer, was appointed to provide advisory services to the company between 2010 and 2012. A total of €900,000 has been paid for it. The question now is what services Dati actually provided in exchange for that money. During that period she also served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Republicans in Brussels. The judiciary suspects that she actually received money in exchange for lobbying for the company in the European Parliament. This is prohibited for members of the European Parliament due to conflicts of interest. The precise indictment against Dati, which includes corruption, is expected to be issued at the end of March.

Doubt is not condemnation, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal last week defended his new minister. But her appointment sparked heated reactions in France. In addition to the corruption investigation, Dati was also named in a second investigation: French-Algerian advisor Tayeb Ben Abderrahmane, who was said to be detained in Qatar in 2020, accuses her of participating in negotiations for his release and working in Qatar. Qatar's interests have moved. Last summer, as part of this investigation, the city hall of the 7th arrondissement in Paris, where Dati is mayor, was raided.

Ambitious and bold

The politician has been heating up emotions for years. French media describe her with terms such as “ungovernable,” “hot-tempered,” and “a cobra ready to attack.” She says she has a “great evil spirit.” “I grew up with killers, in an apartment complex where half the men were either addicts or in prison.”

Rashida Dati.Photo by Agence France-Presse

Dati was born in Saint-Rémy (Burgundy) in 1965 into a large family of eleven brothers and sisters, to a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother. They are not well off at home, and by the time she was a teenager she already had all kinds of jobs to support her parents. From an early age, she was ambitious and bold, willing to do a lot to move up. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde From 2017, she tells how, in her twenties, she made her way to a reception at the Algerian embassy to meet the head of the oil giant Elf Aquitaine. I read a profile about him in the newspaper Le Figaro She wanted to ask him how she could join the company. He appreciates her bravery, shares his private address for an appointment and soon after she joins the Elf Aquitaine.

In 2002, after graduating in law, she turned to politics as an advisor to Sarkozy, the then Minister of Interior and Security. He later appointed her as a spokeswoman for his 2007 presidential campaign and after his election she joined the Cabinet as Minister of Justice. In this capacity, she became a role model, as the daughter of immigrants holding an important position in the French government. But it is also controversial, with amendments to minimum sentences for recidivism and reform of the criminal code for minors.

In 2009, Dati left for Brussels as a member of the European Parliament, but her private life continued to arouse heated emotions in France. For example, when she returns to work five days after giving birth to her daughter, Zahra, which causes her to be exposed to public criticism. The biological father has also been the subject of speculation for years, from Sarkozy's brother to former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. Dati, who claims businessman Dominique Desain is the real father, was eventually proven right in court.

Mayorship

Despite her criticism of President Macron, Datti's return to national politics is reportedly a personal achievement for him Le Monde last week. In exchange for a ministerial position, Macron is said to have promised her his support in the battle for Paris mayor in 2026 – her real goal. Dati has never been caught expressing an opinion about the culture, according to critics of the sector.

Dati responded in the daily newspaper that she did not care about the comments Le Parisien, although it contains “contempt for class.” What matters to her is making culture accessible to everyone. “Show part of France that anything is possible.”