PARIS - If President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives have their way, French teenagers will one day swear their allegiance to the defense of France - a sort of muscular French take on the US Pledge of Allegiance.
Fifteen years after France ended obligatory military service, Sarkozy’s UMP party wants to tighten the binds between the nation and its military by requiring rising 18-year-olds to declare “allegiance to the arms’’ of France.
But critics see political posturing: France will hold both presidential and legislative elections next year, and they say the purely symbolic idea is aimed to help conservatives siphon voter support from a resurgent far-right.
Many French take pride in their military, and the national anthem includes the combative cry: “Aux armes, citoyens!’’ (To arms, citizens!).
The debate about the military has already been part of the election campaign. Green Party candidate Eva Joly drew criticism over the summer after saying the annual Bastille Day military parade should be abolished and replaced by a “citizens parade.’’
Under the UMP idea, French teenagers would “make mention of ‘the allegiance to the arms’ at the national day of call to defense or at the time of acquiring French nationality.’’