Decisions taken under emotion are hardly any good. But France is about to let such decisions shape its future. France, a country asphyxiated by the emergency state imposed after the recent terrorists attacks in Paris, holds regional elections on Sunday. The country is on crossroads ; it’s time that both population and its leaders realize it.
During an exceptional assembly of the parliament in Versailles, a few days after the Paris attacks, French President François Hollande said that “France is at war” with Islamist terrorism and its most ferocious group, Islamic State, or Daesh. France would deploy more planes to the Middle East and strike more targets in Syria ; meanwhile, a nearly unanimous vote plunged the country in a three months state of emergency, giving police wide-ranging powers without much judicial oversight.
“The state of emergency is not something you vote lightly,” said one lawmaker on French radio, December 3. Given how it was voted, I am not convinced. “These are actually the worst times for a society to go on psychopathic autopilot,” writes Frankie Boyle in The Guardian.
Paris is still under shock, weeks after the attacks, with heavy controls at every entrance of public buildings, and even supermarkets. Police presence is even greater because of the COP21 climate conference, taking place in the capital until December 12.
The government, under the state of emergency, imposed house arrests on climate activists accused of planning protests during the COP21. Of the more then 2000 police operations, not all related to Islamist terrorism.
The socialist government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls is openly debating a six months extension of the state of emergency, and plans to introduce laws taken right out of the right-wing conservative toolbox, such as scrapping French-born bi-nationals of their French passport if they are convicted of terrorism-related charges.
In addition, the far-right Front National is making even higher gains in the polls since the November 13 tragedy and is set to win at least one region.
In a recent editorial, Le Monde called the Front National an “imposture,” heavily criticizing its economic and social program, as well as questioning its claim to represent “French values” of liberty, equality, fraternity and freedom of religion.
Front National leader Marine Le Pen recently warned of an Islamic takeover of France if her party does not win Sunday’s election. In the south, Marion Maréchal Le Pen has promised to cut founding for the French equivalent of Planned Parenthood, le Planning Familial, because it was promoting abortions. Marine Le Pen, in the north, also hinted at cutting founding for a regional newspaper, after it published an editorial opposing the party. In Beiziers, the mayor, who is Front National, recently banned all now openings of kebab restaurants in the city center. The list could go on for long.
In the face of Sunday’s elections, my question is simple : do we, in France, realize how important this moment in History is ? I believe that, blinded by fear, we are not. What France is facing, is a choice between obscurantism and reclusion on one side, and the French values on the other.
Decisions taken now are poised to shape this country for a long time. And still, democratic dialogue is suppressed in the name of national unity ; protests are banned and civil society climate activists are grounded in the name of national security.
But democracy is not an option ; not in times of peace, and especially not when “France is at war.” Intelligent, open and honest debates are more then ever needed, if even a socialist left-wing government falls for measures from the (far) right.
I am convinced that the French values, which are nowhere to be found near the Front National, can prevail ; but only if the people, and their democratic leaders realize and seize the importance of the moment, instead of sleepwalking into the arms of fear-mongering Marine Le Pen.
I am afraid of rushed decisions that would make this country – one of the most beautiful countries I know – a dark spot on the European map. Rushed governmental decisions, as well as rushed electoral decisions. By falling for even more “emergency” measures, or the Front National, this country, with its history of human rights, open protest and brave philosophers, would become a disgrace to its past and a sad place to be in the future.
A popular vote against the Front National on Sunday might be one of the first, and perhaps most necessary steps in the right direction. The COP21 is the “last chance” conference for global climate. France, wake up from your fear induced coma, and consider these times as “last chance” moments to retain what made your greatness.