French honours branded a ‘joke’ after Sarkozy makes Salma Hayek a Chevalier | Pakistan Today

French honours branded a ‘joke’ after Sarkozy makes Salma Hayek a Chevalier

France’s highest order of merit has been branded a joke after Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour. News that the 45-year old sex symbol was to become a “Chevalier” along with other actors and singers prompted one former minister to refuse the award. Others warned it would see Napoleon “turning in his grave”. Hayek is currently promoting ‘Puss in Boots’, a film in which she provides the voice for a character called Kitty Softpaws.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has the last word on who receives the Legion of Honour, created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 in his bid to replace nobility with a republican meritocracy. Hayek is married to billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, whose business interests include Gucci and Christie’s auction house. He also happens to be a close friend of Sarkozy. Hayek’ father-in-law, Francois Pinault, will also be made a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour in the same list at the Elysée Palace in a few weeks’ time. This year’s honours list drew an angry response from many – including Henri Torre, the 78-year-old former minister and member of Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, who turned down a Legion of Honour. “Too many people have been nominated who do not deserve to me honoured,” he said, insisting that the award had become tainted with “cronyism”. The Legion of Honour was created “to reward the men and women who have devoted themselves, sometimes to the death, to the nation”, said a second Express reader.
“What services has Salma Hayek rendered to France?” asked a reader of Le Figaro.
According to the government’s official journal, Hayek was chosen for her work as “director and producer (and) active member of charitable foundations for 23 years”. Some suggested that Mr Sarkozy was trying to “buy” popularity with the list before this year’s presidential elections. “The way things are going with Sarkozy, refusing the award will soon be a mark of honour,” said one.
Criticism of the Legion of Honour’s opaque, highly political selection process is nothing new but has reached new heights under Sarkozy. There was also controversy in 2008, when Mr Sarkozy decorated the magistrate who pronounced his divorce from second wife Cecilia. The row follows similar criticism of the honours system in the UK, where Prime Minister David Cameron has been attacked for rewarding Tory Party donors, including tycoon Gerald Ronson, who was jailed for his part in the Guinness share-trading scandal. In 1998, Jacques Chirac decorated the entire French football team after its World Cup final victory.

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