13/10/05 (B319) Le renvoi de Madame Safia Otokoré de la Mairie d’Auxerre, pour diverses raisons, jette un trouble au sein du Parti socialiste ? (En anglais- Transmis par un lecteur)

Row over égalité as socialist mayor sacks female deputy

By Colin Randall, in Paris

(Filed: 13/10/2005)

The dismissal of a Djibouti-born woman as a deputy mayor has provoked a bitter row in France’s socialist party and cast doubts over its commitment to égalité.

Safia Otokoré, 35, a rising star of the Left, says she was the victim of male chauvinism when forced out of her post in the town of Auxerre. Some supporters suggest the affair could also have racial overtones.

Mrs Otokoré believes that her growing prominence in the party prompted a change in the attitude of the town’s socialist mayor, Guy Férez.

« From one day to the next, I became undesirable because I was overshadowing him, » she said. « He could not accept it and that is sexist. »

Mrs Otokoré, a member of the party’s national executive and the Burgundy regional council, was voted out of office by councillors two weeks ago at Mr Férez’s request. He denies that it had anything to do with racial or sexual discrimination, saying he simply lost confidence in her.

He also accuses Mrs Otokoré of repeated absences and a brusque working manner, citing three cases of insulting comments to other members. His office says she was absent from 21 of 23 meetings.

A colleague suggested that Mrs Otokoré mixed politics and showbusiness, saying: « It is not meant to be Star Academy. »

A delegation of influential female Left-wingers have protested to the party leader, François Hollande.

Mrs Otokoré said: « I have done an enormous amount of work, especially among young people, in Auxerre. I have missed meetings but that is because they clashed with my national party duties in Paris. »

Mrs Okotoré, a Muslim, grew up in a poor Somalian family in Djibouti. She moved to France 12 years ago.

27 September 2005: Sexist jibes greet Socialist woman’s quest for Elysée