Features

François Hollande’s own personal state of emergency

The French president’s response to the November terror attacks has left him increasingly isolated and unpopular

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

The terrorist attacks of 13 November have had an enduring effect on people living in Paris and France’s other big cities. Hotel bookings and restaurant reservations are down, and some people will no longer go out in the evening. There have been several other minor terrorist outrages across the country since November, and tension — prompted by repeated government warnings — remains high. The campaign for the 2017 presidential elections will start in July, but François Hollande’s popularity, which soared after the Charlie Hebdo attacks a year ago, has been sliding again.

Hollande’s polls rose slightly after he declared a state of emergency on 14 November. During a state of emergency, the French government assumes fearsome powers that are normally only exercised in time of war. It can suspend daily life without the usual legal authority. In the interests of public safety, a minister can, without justifying his decision, ban meetings and demonstrations, search private property, close business premises, impose a curfew and even order house arrests. The period of emergency has just been extended and is now due to last until the end of May.

This decision is not universally popular, although it has general public support. It has been strongly opposed by the political left and is due to be debated next week in the National Assembly. Leading the protests is France’s Human Rights League (Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, or LDH) which argues that the extension is unjustified on security grounds and that it is a political move intended to pre-empt criticism of the government in the case of further attacks. The LDH petition has been signed by more than 400 university teachers, by many law professors, by one of the police unions and by the judges’ union.

The growing opposition to the state of emergency is only one of the problems faced by Hollande and his prime minister Manuel Valls as they struggle against Islamist terrorism. And the curious thing is that most of the criticism is not coming from their political opponents but from their own supporters.

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In another anti-terrorist move, President Hollande decided at the end of last year to introduce a law that would enable him to strip anyone convicted of terrorist offences of their French nationality, provided they had a second nationality to protect them from becoming stateless. ‘Anyone who commits an act of terrorism against France excludes himself from the pacte républicain,’ according to prime minister Valls. This idea, known as la déchéance, was originally thought up by leaders of the official opposition party — the Republicans, under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy — and was warmly supported by the far-right Front National.

In an atmosphere where even government supporters are demanding more ‘order’, ‘authority’ and ‘repression’ — and some are even demanding the reintroduction of the death penalty — Mr Hollande was hoping he would wrongfoot his opponents and demonstrate his determination to protect the people of France. Unfortunately for the president, such a law requires an amendment to the constitution of the Fifth Republic — and constitutional amendments require a majority in both the National Assembly and in the Senate. Since many members of his own Socialist majority in the Assembly once again oppose the amendment, the president can only get this bill passed with the support of the opposition.

Just before Christmas, the last remaining influential left-winger in the government, the minister of justice, Christiane Taubira, who was an outspoken opponent of la déchéance, announced that the president was ready to drop the idea. This news delighted many on the left, but was promptly denied by a government spokesman. Last week Madame Taubira finally resigned. It had become obvious that she had lost an arm-wrestling match with the prime minister and that her influence over the president was at an end.

Her departure left Mr Hollande isolated within his own party and his left-wing members counting the days to electoral defeat. Madame Taubira has now published a closely argued pamphlet setting out her objections to the constitutional amendment in corrosive terms as ‘an empty symbol’ that breaches the principle of égalité, creating two classes of citizens and two classes of terrorists. She can now be expected to lead the Socialist opposition to an amendment that will be proposed by the prime minister.

But that is not the end of the problems faced by the increasingly unpopular Manuel Valls. He has also managed to fall out with an entirely different constituency in the grand coalition that makes up the French left. Before he became prime minister, Mr Valls was, among other things, the mayor of Évry, a new town 15 miles to the south of Paris. In that role he was one of the most ferocious critics of the Muslim ‘headscarf’, which he banned not only in schools but in any public place and even for mothers taking part in school outings. His hardline attitude stemmed from his personal commitment to la laïcité (secularism), the principle of total separation between church and state.

Last month Mr Valls publicly rebuked the country’s chief secularist, Jean–Louis Bianco, for not being fully committed to the cause. Mr Bianco, who is the president of the ‘Secular Observatory’, an umbrella organisation that keeps watch over the movement’s interests, had supposedly blotted his copybook by agreeing to join religious leaders in a public appeal for mutual understanding and tolerance. Mr Bianco, an ex-minister who was the highly influential secretary-general at the Elysée under President Mitterrand, does not have a very high opinion of Mr Valls and issued a furious rebuke in his turn, accusing the prime minister of supporting a small group of ‘secular fundamentalists’ who threaten civil harmony and undermine his own attempts to strengthen national unity by building bridges between long-standing opponents.

The battle between secularists and their religious opponents in France breaks out at regular intervals and usually involves education. Its extension into the area of national security is potentially very dangerous. Now the squabble between secularists has revealed serious cracks in one of the pillars of the country’s unwritten social contract. The fanatical intolerance shown by Mr Bianco’s humanist critics recalls the revolutionary slogan of 1792, ‘Be my Brother, or I kill thee!’ — and shows that some of the pharisaical spirit of the Enragés and the Committee of Public Safety lives on.

But with the Islamic community facing a sharp increase in racist incidents, and the chief rabbi of Marseilles advising his congregation not to wear their skull caps in the street, all that ‘secular fundamentalism’ seems to have achieved to date is to unite Catholic, Jewish and Islamic leaders in a new alliance against a common enemy.

Patrick Marnham is a former literary editor of this magazine and a former Paris correspondent of the Independent.

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Show comments
  • Terry Field

    No islamic immigration, no problem. Why is that shard too understand?

    • willybach

      Not hard to understand – but how does that address the problem of the extremists that are born and bred in France (and elsewhere)?

      • Sue Smith

        I saw a report yesterday on US PBS Newshour that IS is recruiting alienated muslim immigrants from railway stations in Europe and Scandinavia. It just gets better, doesn’t it!!!

        When you say ‘born and bred’ in France you mean of muslim parents don’t you – which is scarcely the same thing as being European.

      • artemis in france

        Part of the emergency powers includes the possibility of the State being able to expel suspects whose parents aren’t French nationals to their birth nations. Thus our daughters, even the younger who has dual nationality, could be deported to the Uk if they were found to be jihadists. The older one was born in the UK but the younger was born in France 25 years ago. This is why the human rights lobby is unhappy. Personally I think anything the State can do to rid itself of danger is just fine.

  • Bill Kendall

    “Leading the protests is France’s Human Rights League (Ligue des Droits
    de l’Homme, or LDH) which argues that the extension is unjustified on
    security grounds and that it is a political move intended to pre-empt
    criticism of the government in the case of further attacks.”

    So the Lefty Human Rights League would rather take the risk of a load more people being slaughtered just for their political reasons?

    I find it incredible how the Left constantly seem to take the side of terrorists.

    • JabbaPapa

      France’s Human Rights League (Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, or LDH) which argues that the extension is unjustified on security grounds

      They’re talking out of their bottoms.

      • Jingleballix

        Les Frogs are also up in arms about the fact that Leftist (‘no borders’ crowd) can protest with full freedom – yet those not on the Left are arrested……..see former French Foreign Legion general.

        The French police are split between various municipal forces who tend to be Left, and national forces like Gendarmes, and CRS that tend not be Left.

        http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/02/09/arrest-of-foreign-legion-general-slammed-as-double-standard-by-french-right-wing/

        Read the comments……….it’s going to be very fruity in France for quite a while.

        On a general level though – i.e. government denying the problem exists, because it will have to do something about it – the French situation, is nothing that’s not going on in UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Sweden etc. etc.

        • JabbaPapa

          There’s a lot of truth in the points that you’ve made.

    • Discuscutter

      lol.

      Do you remember Ronald Reagan and Bush and the Republican’s close ties to Islamic Militants and extremists up to 9/11.

  • Tamerlane

    For all the tough talk he’s another ‘nothing to do with Islam’ liberal merchant out of touch with lives of his citizens and the world they inhabit.

    • Sue Smith

      As the wise man once said, “you may not be interested in war but it will be very interested in you”. I submit that comment as a powerful modern metaphor.

  • T Gould

    The reasons Jews are being advised to not wear skull caps in public is because of antisemitic muslims, not secular fundamentalists. There are statistics about to support this, and an attack on a Jewish supermarket was part of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Attacks on Jews by Muslims are more severe and numerous than from any other group and the idea that roaming gangs of secular fundamentalists are on the hunt for skull caps is laughable.

    • Tom Cullem

      Spot on. It isn’t secular fundamentalists who are carrying out the violent attacks on Jews in Marseilles.

      • Sue Smith

        The very last word in that sentence provides the real clues to what is happening!

    • Sue Smith

      I would say it’s more than that; it’s a straight lie.

  • Sue Smith

    This situation is the direct result of trying to shut the gate long after the horse has bolted.

    • TrulyDisqusted

      Yes, but shooting horses in a coral is easier than having to hunt them on the plain.

      Ready, Aim, FIRE!

      The BBC will need a new news team.

      • Sue Smith

        Coral grows in the ocean; a corral is where horses are contained.

  • JabbaPapa

    Those who criticise this position of the French government are either simply ignorant of what a terrorist campaign in Paris is actually like, or they are politically motivated hypocrites.

    When you’ve been in the vicinity of multiple terrorist outrages, the extra security measures feel very different to how these loony lefties are portraying them.

    • LittleRedRidingHood

      Yes But who allowed those security threats to move to their country. The very people now enforcing martial law on the populous.
      Would you allow a known paedophile to look after your children. I’m assuming the answer is no.
      Then why allow huge numbers of people who follow an ideology that despises what you stand for and facilitates terrorism on a global scale into your country.
      Unless of course your government is also a facilitator of terror and using the ideology to further their aims of one world order.

      • JabbaPapa

        Not “my” country, not “my” government, and generally speaking Hollande is a disastrous buffoon.

        But on this one single issue, considered in isolation (not as part of some conspiracy and/or political theories of whatever sort), the need to protect people against a current threat should not be subjected to any partisan muckraking.

        • LittleRedRidingHood

          Really? It is funny how every single western government has made the same mistake.
          This is wilful vandalism of our nation states and our native populations.
          What is the point of all of this if not for a specific reason.
          Multiculturalism is not that reason.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Ah yes, the “vandalism” of not hating everyone not just like them, the vandalism of trade and a modern economy, etc.

            Your whining rolls on.

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            If you can’t see I can’t help you. When you have a dirty Arab half way up your poo pipe you come back on here see if your viewpoint has changed.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Thanks for the threat, Mr. Dirty Arab.

            I can see the threat you pose me just fine. Fanatics like you are and remain the problem.

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            Well it would be nothing short of a miracle if I morphed into dirty Arab Leon.
            Please state clearly the benefits you see from the most recent influx of over 1.1 million uneducated, unskilled, misogynistic religious zealots to all European nations.
            You clearly know my view, yet no one knows yours.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            It’d be a miracle if you were as you described yourself? Hmm, well, sloppy wording on your part.

            And I can’t see 1.1 million people like you coming here, no, as you once more show yourself a hypocrite by talking about other countries.

            My view is plain, of course, you just don’t want to admit I’ve stated it.
            Once more – extremists are a problem. You and your few fellow believers, Islamists. Not people who are not extremists.

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            Your lack of comprehension and literacy is nothing short of miraculous. Read the words in the order they are written, ar$ewipe.
            Since you never make any points contributing to the debate all that is left is insult and I am more than happy to insult you Leon. I find it quite therapeutic, not to mention funny.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Ah, so you imagine miracles in your head, as you call yourself an ” ar$ewipe.”

            As you whine that I don’t agree your blind hate is good, and that you see only insults and insults. And then apparently you have issues which need therapy…oh my…

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            Brilliant literary work of art there Leon.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Keep rejecting your enemy, English.

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            Gibberish.

  • hyena

    UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium… – all done. The end is within one generation. Interestingly enough the mortal danger is the same as ~1000 years ago. Death, murder, pain, suffering, rape… oh, the joy of islam. It would be islamophobic to remind Europeans how reality looked back then. Half of Europe was burning when the “religion of peace” spread.

  • Watt

    Soixante-huitard generation, look upon your works and weep

  • Muttley

    Having seen the sort of bogus incidents which are recorded as “Islamophobic” here, I very much doubt that France’s muslim community is experiencing increased racist incidents either.

  • Ajourney

    Note how none of the Zionist trolls on this thread have any conception of the way France colonised and humiliated Arab Muslims for generations – just like Israel, supported by billions in US charitable donations and free weapons, is doing to Arab Muslims now. Terrorism is despicable under any guise, but don’t pretend it all comes from the same social and religious group….

    • LittleRedRidingHood

      But largely it does. Unless of course you can provide evidence to the contrary.

    • Caviar luvvie

      go phack yourself with a koran

      • Ajourney

        Note how the Holocaust was carried out by white Europeans – many of them Christians. And you’re not a “Zionist troll”. Your language – “inbred”, “cockroaches” – makes it clear that you are an “Evil Racist Troll”.

        • Caviar luvvie

          Did you phack yourself with your pedo bible yet Abdul?
          Or are you looking for a 11 year old white girl to drug & rape?

    • Uncle Brian

      but don’t pretend it all comes from the same social and religious group….

      In the not too distant past we had terrorist atrocities by the IRA, the ETA, and other violent nationalist movements. But they have all dried up, one by one, so that Muslims now have a virtual monopoly. So, yes, it does all come from what you call “the same social and religious group.” That is the plain truth, visible to all except a few blinkered bigots like you. Open your silly eyes.

      • Ajourney

        Oh, so Zio-Christian terror has just “dried up” has it. I just imagined that 500 plus children, including boys playing football on a beach, were murdered by terrorists in Gaza in the summer of 2014 alone, that missiles and bombs continue to pour down on Arab countries, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands in the name of western “civilisation” (etc, etc)………The “plain truth” is that terror breeds terror, and by far the worst terrorists in the world are the kind who continue to distort ancient religions to try and justify their lethal violence. Israelis and Americans are just as adept at doing this as barbaric organisations like Isil and Al-Qaeda.

        • Caviar luvvie

          If only Zio-Christians were as peaceful and tolerant as you cuddly Musloids, ey?

          p.s.: nobody kills more muslim children, than muslims, maybe that’s why Allah hates your ilk so much

          • Ajourney

            I’m Jewish, American, white and proud to call London my home….But comment thread racists are as adept at leaping to brainless conclusions as the violent NeoCons who drive western terrorism. Judging by your spelling, grammar, and punctuation, you haven’t had much of an education – you’re just another sad coward with a huge inferiority complex.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Lies, lies, and lies. Taqiyya, taqiyya, and yet more taqiyya.
            Typical shameless Muslim: you think the entire world is as inbred and stupid as your lot.

          • Uncle Brian

            I see. A Jewish “anti-Zionist”. Thank you for that explanation. That says it all, really.

            Meanwhile, the rest of us can get on with our lives, secure in the confidence that for the foreseeable future Israel will thrive and prosper as a fully democratic state, in all probability continuing, as now, to be the only one of its kind located anywhere between Cyprus and India.

          • Ajourney

            Yes, “fully democratic” for violent colonial racists who want to maintain an armed encampment in the Middle East which kills, maims, and imprisons thousands of civilians every year, most of them Arab Muslims, while continuing to steal their land. And you wonder where the terror comes from!….Israel is a lethal construct – the root of so many of world’s security problems. Jews are as entitled to oppose it as any other group.

          • Mow_the_Grass

            You ‘pal/ette’ – are not a Jew.
            Quit with the BS – nobody believes it.

          • Fekker

            He’s clearly a goy.

          • Mow_the_Grass

            Actually figure – more like Muslim.
            btw – the un-subtle ‘goy’ word don’t work to well with ne.

          • Uncle Brian

            And you wonder where the terror comes from!….

            No, I don’t wonder about it at all. I know exactly where it comes from. As you do, too, if you stop to think about it for a moment.

          • Mow_the_Grass

            JINO – if that can be believed.
            Have serious doubts on that one

          • logdon

            You’re a Kapo then

          • Sid Falco

            “I’m Jewish, American, white and proud to call London my home”

            No matter how much you grovel and abase yourself before muslims they’ll still cut off your straw-filled head because you’re a Jew.

            Do us all a favour and foxtrot oscar back to America.

          • Jingleballix

            You don’t understand what is going on do you?

            This is going to turn out in one HUGE bloody conflict, and idealistic lines like yours [ “International terrorism is not one way” ] won’t mean a thing.

            You are going to have to choose, which side you are on – once it gets started, no matter what you say, you’re just a Jew boy, and will be quite simply tortured and killed as such………watch the clip, this is what ‘normal’ Pak lads in a parochial Midlands town think about a ‘peaceful co-existence’…….

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOtaReT1eAc

            ……….it is terrible to have to write this, but I am very fearful for the future.

            I think that you need to start looking at things a little differently, though no doubt, you’ll put you’re head in the sand and start denying the truth.

        • Mow_the_Grass

          Your Muslim brothers and sisters – kill more other Muslim brothers and sisters – than any Zio-Christian has ever done.
          In the total absence of Zio’s or Christians – you Muslims would still be slaughtering each other 24/7 ad infinitum.
          You don’t need any excuse.

    • logdon

      I think that you are the troll here.

      Go away, you are both ignorant and boring.

    • Sid Falco

      France went into the worthless North African desert in the mistaken belief that a dose of Republican education might prevent the local savages from reverting to Barbary piratism.

      Sadly, a thousand years of islamic mumbo jumbo had made that impossible.

  • Oh_take_some_responsibility

    Notice that some places of Worship have opened their doors to all comers today, to some a seductive narrative.

    Beware the Siren’s Call…

  • Phyllyp Sparowe

    So Hungary, Poland and France can play fast and loose with the concept of “free and democratic” yet the UK can’t deport 1 batshit mental jihadi bint.

    Sign me up for more of this and give me a side order of LSD for the trip.

  • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

    There can be no place in the modern world for the public demonstration of devotion to imaginary beings and lunatic books of revelation. It is almost incredible to me that after a quarter of a millennium of scientific enquiry, people are still following the dictates of books from mid iron age times or the dark ages packed with nonsense about supernatural beings and ridiculous laws.

    • Ronovitch

      So another anti-Semitic Israel hater. Damn you.

      • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

        What? Lunatic! I neither mentioned Israel or Semites, so you made that up you imbecile. Ronovitch isn’t one of Wolfeson’s alter egos is it? Surely there can’t be two trolls who turn up and accuse people of this without ANY shred of evidence of it. Let me be clear – ALL religion is madness based on invented, imaginary beings. I don’t care what holy book you revere – its a man made, invention with no place in modern society at large. If you want to read it in your house, I have no problem. If you want to attend a place of worship and quietly get on with your mumbo jumbo – please feel free, BUT…… DON’T bring it into public life and parade it around the streets or expect the normal people to accommodate your weird, made up belief system.

        • Ronovitch

          Stop lying you anti-Semitic pig. You are a classic anti-Semite who despises religious people, whether from Israel or anywhere else. Damn you.

          • The Patriarchy

            Sparknottle is a rambilng incoherent buffoon who never attended secondary school, and now lives with his mum, Fabian delusions. Best to take no notice.

          • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

            You’re a complete lunatic. Regarding religion as a stupid delusion is not anti-Semitism. However, since you care clearly insane I won’t be too hard on you, and just hope you can get some medication to stop your delusional state getting any worse. You clearly don’t understand the meaning of the words you use. Your case must be a very serious one.

          • Larzlaff

            Shut up “Sparknottle” – you pathetic loser. You’re an anti-Semite and a racist – the kind of uneducated low life that civilised society doesn’t deserve.

      • http://rantingoldgit.blogspot.co.uk/ Arthur Sparknottle

        You’re a TOTAL FRAUD!

        I just googled your name and your online posts are 95% anti-Israel…. I on the other hand never mentioned the damned place yet you rant at me about being ‘another anti-Semitic Israel hater.’ You have to be insane.

  • Sid Falco

    “But with the Islamic community facing a sharp increase in racist incidents”

    bullsh#t.

    “the chief rabbi of Marseilles advising his congregation not to wear their skull caps in the street,”

    Yes, and it’s your beloved “Islamic community” that’s attacking them.

  • Augustus

    “Leading the protests is France’s Human Rights League” And according to the UN recently, basic human rights are in danger and one needs to be careful that the state of emergency is not regularly abused.

    Restricting human rights because of those who would do us harm is simply a form of defence. Why doesn’t the UN pay a visit to Saudi Arabia? Very inadequate in the human rights department. And they even keep slaves!

  • larblond

    Only in France would Hollande’s popularity increase after a horrible terrorist attack. The man should have been run out of the country for failing miserably to protect his people.

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