French politicians clash over new security proposals

French Prime ministre Manuel Valls and Justice Minister Christianae Taubira during a press conference on the proposed constitutional reform on Wednesday.
French Prime ministre Manuel Valls and Justice Minister Christianae Taubira during a press conference on the proposed constitutional reform on Wednesday. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool

Politicians differ on the French government's controversial proposal to strip dual national terrorists of their citizenship. The move is part of a proposed constitutional reform, which could see the state of emergency enshrined in the French constitution.


The measure is mostly symbolic, even if there are an estimated 3.5 million French people with a second nationality in the country. Although bi-nationals, who have been naturalised French can already be stripped of their nationality in certain cases, the new legislation will also extend to those who were born in France.

The proposal was made by President François Hollande right after the November 13 attacks and despite rumours over the past few days that he was about to do a U-turn on the move, the government said it would go ahead.

The right and the far right have expressed their approval of the move.

“[Hollande] promised it in front of the Congress, the United Senate and National Assembly, so he couldn’t go back on it,” Jacques Myard, an MP from the Conservative Les Republicains told RFI. “Otherwise he would have insulted the democratic representation of the nation.”

The left, however, is not taking the news so well. Many see Hollande's decision as a betrayal of Socialist values.

“It’s not a light modification of the constitution, it’s something very important,” Isabelle Attard, an independent MP formally with the Greens told RFI. “Our ministers, our president… all of them were against stripping nationality five years ago when Nicolas Sarkozy tried to put it into the constitution.”

“It’s a demand of the far right that the Socialist party is making its own,” she adds. “How can it be true?”

It appears Hollande's fears that opposition MPs would not back his constitutional reform if he did not include the nationality issue, led to the last-minute change of heart.

The president is pushing for a revision of the constitution, which would also see the state of emergency enshrined within. The reforms must now be passed by a three-fifths majority in the upper and lower houses of parliament, for which President Hollande needs the support of the right.

On Tuesday this week, the Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said the nationality issue had been dropped and said that she was against it. She was then contradicted by Prime Minister Manuel Valls who said it was to be included in the constitutional reform.

That means that Taubira will have to defend the bill she was against when debates start on February 3. This led some opposition MPs to ask for her resignation.

“She is in a very awkward position and it’s not the first time that she is following her own policies,” says Jacques Myard. “She’s very awkward in this government, the only way for her is to go, because she has lost her own credibility.”

Some members of the left, however, were quick to defend Taubira.

“As everybody knows in this country, she is the expression of the left within this government,” says Michel Wieviorka, a sociologist with EHESS. “She is a very controversial politician, but people say ‘if somebody belongs to the left in this government, it’s Christiane Taubira’. So she had to follow the general tendency towards ‘rightisation’.”

But, even if Taubira stays, the constitutional reform looks set to further divide the left. Members of the Greens, the Communist Party and Hollande's own Socialist party have lashed out at the proposal.

“It’s surprising maybe for those who thought Hollande was still a Socialist,” says Attard. “Today, lots of my socialist colleagues in parliament, opened their eyes and thought ‘No, it can’t be true’.”

Some say this is a strategy from Hollande to get votes from the right in 2017... he might lose the support of half of the left in the process...


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