What to Know About France’s New Culture Minister, Rachida Dati

The controversial choice has come as a big surprise to France's cultural industries.

Visitors queue in front of the Louvre. Photo by Alain Jocard/AFP.

Rachida Dati has been named France’s new minister of culture during a cabinet reshuffle following the promotion of Gabriel Attal to prime minister. The news comes as a surprise due to Dati’s association with the right-wing party Les Républicains. She was previously justice minister under Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing government from 2007 to 2009.

“Everyone knows I like fighting. Don’t be afraid of me,” Dati announced upon her arrival to the ministry, according to The Times. She is known for her sleek style and forthright, no nonsense approach, having returned to work just five days after her first child and, reportedly, declared that maternity leave is for “wimps.”

The departing culture minister Rima Abdul Malak was vocally left-wing and recently opposed a new French law that will crackdown on immigration. Unlike Malak, who is a specialist in the performing arts, Dati does not have a background in arts and culture but is a highly experienced politician who is known and liked across the country.

Back in 2007, Dati was the first Muslim woman to become a minister in France. The child of a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother, Dati was raised in poverty as one of 11 children in the town of Chalons-sur-Saône, Burgundy. When she was picked by Sarkozy, he said her appointment sent a message “to all the children of France that with merit and effort everything becomes possible.”

There has been widespread backlash against Dati’s appointment to the culture minsitry. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who beat Dati in the 2020 election, publicly stated: “Good luck to people in the cultural world, given the ordeals they are going to face.”

According to Le Monde, however, Dati is a “prize catch” for Macron. The paper also claimed that she took the role on the condition that she will head Paris’s municipal election list in 2026. She has been mayor of the city’s 7th arrondissement since 2008, but since accepting the role of culture minister she has been forcibly removed from her party Les Républicains. Dati has been branded a “traitor,” and the party’s president Éric Ciotti accused her of “placing herself outside our political family,” according to France24.

Dati is also currently the subject of a formal investigation into her ties with Carlos Ghosn. The former chairman and CEO of Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi Motors, is a fugitive who escaped from Japan in December 2019 while awaiting trial for alleged financial misconduct. Between 2010 and 2012, Dati did consulting work for Ghosn, and France’s financial crimes unit is in the process of establishing whether a €900,000 ($985,000) payment she received from Renault while she was a member of the European Parliament was in fact for illegal lobbying, according to the Guardian. Dati has denied any wrongdoing.


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