As the official presidential campaign comes to an end at midnight today, all the candidates’ agendas have been disrupted by the Champs-Elysées attack. Last night, a policeman was shot dead and two others injured by a French gunman. The attack, claimed by the so-called Islamic State, raised the important issue of fighting terrorism for the candidates.
Marine Le Pen and François Fillon were first to cancel their respective meetings in different parts of France, followed by Emmanuel Macron. In doing so, the three candidates paid tribute to the policeman who lost his life.
In a declaration at 10am today, Front National leader Marine Le Pen said :
“Once again, policemen have been targeted and paid the price of blood in their fight against radical islamism. (…) They are targeted because they represent the State. France is not target for what it is doing, but for what it is, and the French people are target for the only reason they are French. (…) This pitiless war is carried continuously and we cannot lose it. However, it has been ten years that left and right governments have done everything so we lose it. We need a presidency that takes action and protects.”
Le Pen added that all of the foreign people known by secret services will be expelled.
A few moments later, it was François Fillon’s turn to declare:
“We are under the state of emergency and it will remain for a long time. For many years I have asserted that we are facing an islamist totalitarianism. (…) Some seem not to have evaluated the evil that is attacking us and as far as I’m concerned, I intend to fight it with an iron fist. It will be my struggle and my priority. (…) We have to rearm ourselves on a security, diplomatic, military as well as on a ideological and cultural levels. (…) My foreign policy will be focused on Isis’ destruction. (…) It will only be possible when the great nations will act together.”
The candidate explained he will reinforce border control and police means. He promised to strengthen the law against “dangerous people” and increase prison places. As for the French jihadi, they will be deprived of their nationality.
Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve reacted to both declarations, accusing them of ‘outrageousness and division”. He said that Marine Le Pen “is looking to exploit fear and emotion for political means. She is asking to immediately restore our national borders, but she is forgetting that this government has re-established borders’ control. (…) She obviously has forgotten that in the fight against terrorism, her party has been opposed to all the antiterror laws while never suggesting anything serious or credible in return.”
He then criticised Fillon, stating “he wants the creation of 10 000 jobs in the police force. How can we believe a candidate who suppressed 13 000 jobs in internal security when he was Prime Minister?”
After cancelling two meetings he had today, Emmanuel Macron also reacted in a statement:
“What terrorists want, is to perturb the country at a moment where the French people are deciding for their future. The role of the President is to protect them. I am ready for it. The answer is not, as I can observe here or there, to indulge in one-upmanship to face this tragic event that has plunged our country into mourning. (…) On an internal level, 10 000 policemen jobs will be created in the next five years. (…) I will place close to the President a coordinating body that I called “Task force”, able to act 24 hours a day against the Islamic state. The territorial intelligence will be reinforced, because part of our fight is focused on tracking the people who become radicalised. I will be implacable to protect you.”
Benoit Hamon kept his original plan today. During his interview on the radio this morning, he denounced how Marine Le Pen “overbid” the Champs Elysées attacks for “her own benefits”. After that, he then took the direction of the South West of France and the city of Carmaux, near Toulouse. This visit was the occasion to pay a tribute to Jean Jaurès, a French political icon for being one of the first social democrats, who has always inspired Benoit Hamon. He declared about the response we should give to the attacks:
“ I do not believe that our duty is to answer with the close minds they hope to provoke on us. I think we must answer with even more freedom, more equality, more secularism, more democracy, more debates. In other words, we must answer with more re-pu-blic”. He then looked at the statue of Jean Jaurès behind him to point out that he embodies “ the courage to hold strong for your convictions, against all types of extremists” .
Jean-Luc Mélenchon also decided to keep to his agenda. At 3pm, the France insoumise candidate said:
“Our first duty is to have self-control, not to give in to panic and emotions. (…) I hope the controversy will cease, especially those against our current government. (…) When we are in a political campaign, murderers should not interrupt it. (…) Republican values command, require from us that we end our campaign with dignity, meaning we should not cancel any meeting.”