French president Emmanuel Macron has been urged to sack the newly appointed minister for solidarity and the disabled “as a precaution” after two women accused him of rape.
Opposition politicians from the left have led the calls for the dismissal of Damien Abad, who was appointed on Friday, after the accusations were published by French investigative outlet Mediapart over the weekend.
Green politician Sandrine Rousseau on Monday urged new prime minister Elisabeth Borne to tell Mr Abad that he has no place in the government.
‘We need to send a strong signal to women’
“I think it’s not a question of whether he should resign, but whether he should be dismissed as a precaution,” Ms Rousseau said on RTL radio. “We need to send a strong signal to women that their word counts.”
Olivier Faure, the secretary of the left-wing party PS, reiterated Ms Rousseau’s calls. “If I were prime minister, I would tell Damien Abad that I have no reason to think that these women are lying, their voices must be respected and while waiting for judicial action, I would prefer that you are not part of this government,” he said.
Despite Mr Abad’s denials, the allegations overshadowed the first meeting of Mr Macron’s new cabinet on Monday as he attempted to relaunch his presidency.
Olivia Gregoire, the government’s new spokesperson, said there will be “zero tolerance” for sexual misconduct by members of Mr Macron’s new government, but the judiciary, not the press, will decide the truth.
“What is at stake is establishing the truth,” she said as she took up her role for the first time.
“And it is for judicial authorities to do so. Not me, not you either,” she told reporters.
“As far as I know there is no ongoing procedure against Damien Abad,” Ms Gregoire added.
Both women claim Mr Abad had forced them to have unwanted sexual relations with him in incidents in late 2010 and early 2011.
One of the women filed a complaint to the police against Mr Abad in 2017 which was closed without further action, Mr Abad and Mediapart said.
Mr Abad said his disability, a disorder called arthrogryposis that affects all four of his limbs, made it physically impossible for him to commit the acts he was accused of.
Mr Abad, who was previously the leader of the opposition conservative party in the lower house, was Mr Macron’s biggest catch in centre-right ranks.
In televised comments to his new ministers at the start of the cabinet meeting, Mr Macron did not mention the controversy.
“This government’s mandate is to be at the service of our compatriots,” he said, stressing that the cabinet was bringing together ministers of different backgrounds and political stripes.
The timing could not be worse for Mr Macron, who is trying to keep his parliamentary majority in legislative elections in June so that he is free to move forward with his agenda on all fronts.
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