Who is Sébastien Delogu, the French MP suspended for raising the Palestinian flag?

Who is Sébastien Delogu, the French MP suspended for raising the Palestinian flag?
From a homeless driver to an MP, here's the journey of Sébastien Delogu who brandished the Palestinian flag inside the French Parliament.
4 min read
30 May, 2024
Delogu's guerrilla-style politics have not endeared him to France's elite politicians, particularly Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. [Getty]

On Tuesday, May 28, Sébastien Delogu, a member of the French Parliament, boldly held up the Palestinian flag inside the National Assembly in protest of Paris' reluctance to recognise the Palestinian state.

His symbolic gesture caused quite a stir, both inside and outside the assembly. The session promptly stopped, and Delogu faced suspension from participating in parliamentary work for fifteen sessions, with half of his allowance withheld for two months.

"I believe the French state is complicit in what is happening in Palestine today. Our group and I are proud to stand on the side of international law," asserted after his suspension.

From a homeless driver to an MP, here's the journey of the Armenian-Algerian 36-year-old man whose actions have ruffled the feathers of President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.

"I have known the misery of the world"

Born in 1987, the Marseille deputy grew up in Consolat, a disadvantaged neighbourhood in the north of Marseille. His father was a taxi driver, and his mother was a saleswoman.

In 2012, Delogu was evicted from his home, with his wife and two children, and ended up sleeping in his car. This marked the beginning of his activism against state policies.

During this period, he joined the National Housing Confederation (CNL), advocating for the right to housing.

"I have known the misery of the world, and I see it around me," he told the French media 20 Minutes at the time of his election. Just ten months before his election, he was still sleeping in his car.

Following in his father's footsteps as a taxi driver, he became the Marseille delegate in the Taxi de France assembly.

His activism against VTCs (services like Uber) brought him into contact with Danielle Simonnet, then coordinator of La France Insoumise (LFI). During the 2017 legislative campaign of party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Marseille, Simonnet introduced Delogu to Mélenchon.

Delogu was often referred to as Mélenchon's personal driver during the campaign. "But he was never paid for it. He insisted on being a volunteer," said Lise Maillard, Jean-Luc Mélenchon's chief of staff, in a statement to 20 Minutes.

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Delogu's politics: "The whistleblower"

Sébastien Delogu presents himself as a "local whistleblower," always ready for action. In 2018, he launched a fundraiser to repaint his daughter's school, criticising its state of disrepair, and took on the work himself, along with other parents.

A year later, he led a smoke bomb demonstration in the Estaque neighbourhood to protest pollution from cruise ships.

Last March, he called for a parliamentary inquiry into the "Marseille en grand," a plan launched by President Macron to revitalise the city, though critics argue it will only serve the rich and exacerbate the social equality and housing problem in Marseille.

No stranger to complaints and suspensions, since his election in June 2022, Delogu has made headlines multiple times.

Last December, he shouted "racists" in the Assembly during a speech by Michèle Tabarot of the Republicans, who supported ending an agreement easing immigration between France and Algeria.

Delogu also told Tabarot that her family was amongst those who colonised Algeria, to which she retorted that she was proud of her family's history and that Delogu should be ashamed of being "a friend to Hamas". This outburst led to him being sanctioned and losing 25% of his monthly allowance.

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This year, Delogu has faced two complaints of violence following altercations during the blockade of a high school in Marseille, part of the social movement against pension reform. He was accused of kicking the deputy headmaster and the school counsellor, allegations his entourage firmly denied.

Delogu's guerrilla-style politics have not endeared him to France's elite politicians, namely Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. Attal described Delogu's flag protest as "a sorrowful and disheartening spectacle," and praised the MPs who attempted to confiscate the flag.

While brandishing foreign flags in the French parliament is banned, several deputies have worn Israeli flag pins in solidarity with Tel Aviv without facing sanctions since the start of Israel's war on Gaza.

Delogu plans to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights to contest his suspension.

"My punishment for brandishing the flag of a colonised and massacred people is worthy of an authoritarian regime. (...) The France of genocide accomplices is not ours!" he added in a statement on X.