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The state of emergency and the collapse of French democracy

The measures being taken by the government of President François Hollande in response to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris constitute an unprecedented attack on democratic rights.

The Socialist Party (PS) government has declared a state of emergency and mobilized more than 100,000 security personnel throughout the country, including regular police, gendarmes, paramilitary riot police and military forces. It is impossible to walk the streets of any major city without running into individuals decked out in camouflage or dressed in black, toting automatic rifles. These paramilitary forces have been given the power to raid any home and arrest or kill anyone declared a threat, with no opposition from within the political or media establishment.

Now Hollande is proposing to amend the French Constitution to allow the president to decree emergency rule, extendable indefinitely, and vastly expand the powers granted to the army and police. The proposal, published online, provides the legal basis for transforming France into a presidential dictatorship.

The existing 1955 law grants the president and the security forces far-ranging powers during a state of emergency. They can carry out warrantless searches and seizures, impose curfews and ban public assemblies, detain and order the house arrest of anyone “whose activity proves dangerous to security and public order,” and dissolve any organization linked to people under house arrest that “participates in, facilitates or incites” disturbances of public order.

The changes introduced by the Socialist Party’s constitutional amendment make the law even more ominous. President Hollande has declared that he intends to renew it as long as France faces a threat from any terrorist group similar to ISIS, i.e., for an indefinite period of time.

An examination of the amendment makes clear, however, that the measures are not about fighting ISIS, which in any case emerged from the NATO powers’ own policy of sponsoring Islamist militias as proxy forces to wage war for regime-change in Syria. The horrific attacks in Paris are the pretext for implementing dictatorial measures that cannot be rationally explained by the threat posed by ISIS.