French left-wing hopeful grounded after domestic violence ruling

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A prominent young leader of France’s hard-left party was handed a suspended four-month prison sentence Tuesday for slapping his wife, prompting a humiliating parliamentary exclusion from colleagues as they attempt to mount a viable opposition to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Adrien Quatennens was removed from his France Unbowed group at the lower-house National Assembly for four months after the ruling, though the party did not call for his resignation.

“True to our commitment to combat violence against women, we owed it to ourselves to collectively take this political decision,” France Unbowed lawmakers said in a statement, adding that Quatennens would have to complete a domestic violence awareness course.

It was the latest of several incidents of domestic violence, sexual harassment or assault that have roiled French political parties in the wake of the #MeToo movement, in particular among left-wing groups that emphasize the need for tougher responses to violence against women.

Quatennens avoided a scrum of journalists via a side door to attend the hearing in the northern city of Lille, where his wife was also present — the couple are in the midst of conflictual divorce proceedings.

After pleading guilty, he was given the suspended prison term for “violence against a spouse” between October and December 2021 as well as for sending “repeated hostile messages,” and also fined 2,000 euros ($2,100) in damages.

Details of the claims were unavailable because the hearing was held behind closed doors.

In an interview with the Voix du Nord newspaper after the ruling, Quatennens insisted he would not resign.

“I have endured in silence this unprecedented media lynching,” he said in his first public statements since the revelations by the Canard Enchaine investigative weekly in September.

“Resigning after a conviction for something I admitted would create a dangerous precedent and open the door to all sorts of political exploitation of private life,” he said.

– Return in doubt –

Quatennens has received the backing of several France Unbowed colleagues, but it remains unclear if the party will ultimately accept his return to parliament.

In a statement to AFP in late November, his wife evoked “several years” of “physical and psychological violence” at his hands.

Women’s activists were outraged when party founder and heavyweight Jean-Luc Melenchon, who narrowly missed out on the second round of this year’s presidential election against Emmanuel Macron, initially backed his protege in a tweet seen as playing down the violence. He has since kept quiet on the case.

“The subject we’re now discussing is what are the conditions and terms of his possible return,” Manuel Bombard, who took up Quatennens’ coordinator role and is set to become party leader, told France Inter radio.

“You can’t compare it to guys who hit their wives or who spike a woman’s drink,” said Patrick Proisy, the France Unbowed mayor of Faches-Thumesnil, a Lille suburb, one of around a dozen supporters outside the courthouse.

Last September, the party chief of France’s Greens party, a key France Unbowed ally in the so-called Nupes parliamentary alliance, resigned after being accused by fellow Greens MP Sandrine Rousseau of psychologically abusing a former partner.

He has denied the allegations and said he would remain an MP, noting that the former partner made the charges to an internal party committee but has not filed a police complaint, and no judicial inquiry has been opened.

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