Tributes pour in for French centrist MP Mareille de Sarnez

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After Francois Bayrou, president of France’s centrist Modem party, announced Wednesday the death of his close collaborator, Marielle de Sarnez, 69, tributes immediately came from across France’s political spectrum

“Marielle, so talented and brave. Marielle de Sarnez has just left. Our sadness is immense,” wrote Bayrou, currently the mayor of Pau.

Sarnez, who entered politics in France in 1974, helped Bayrou found the Modem party. A former MEP and staunch supporter of the European project, she had been suffering from leukaemia.

Writing in tribute on Twitter, President Emmanuel Macron wrote that Sarnez was a "tireless artisan of the centre, passionate combatant for Europe”, adding that “France loses a political leader of great talent. We lose a friend.”

Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote about Sarnez’s “loyalty to her political commitments” and her work to “modernize our democracy and defend a certain idea of Europe”.

Sarnez joined Macron’s LaRem party to run for her seat in parliament. She became president of the prestigious foreign affairs committee in the national assembly.

Her allies, and opponents poured out praise, including hard left France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who honoured “an adversary who was an example of loyalty, respect of others and creativity”.

“Beyond our political differences, she was an involved commission president, respectful and attentive to all MPs,” wrote Far right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen.

Born in Paris, Sarnez spent most of her career in the capital, entering politics when she supported Valéry Giscard d'Estaing run for president in 1974.

She found her role in centrist politics, and eventually became president of the centrist UDF federation of Paris in 2006, and the Paris branch of the Modem in 2008. She was elected European MP in 2009.

Sarnez ran Bayrou’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 2012.

In May 2017 then Prime Minister Edouard Philippe named her European affairs minister, but she resigned a few days later after revelations in the press that she had been paid for work she had not done in the European Parliament. The revelations also pushed Bayrou to step down from his short stint as Justice minister.

(with wires)