France State of emergency to protect elections

Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas (L), Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve (C) and the Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux (R), holding a press conference to announce that the state of emergency will extended until July 2017.

The state of emergency imposed in France after the Paris attacks must be extended to protect elections next year.

PM Bernard Cazeneuve said he was seeking the extension until 15 July, covering presidential and parliamentary polls from April to June, and Bastille Day on 14 July.

Parliament is expected to approve the measure on Tuesday.

It will be the fifth extension of the emergency powers introduced after the attacks on 13 November last year.

Islamist extremists killed 130 people and wounded hundreds in gun and bomb attacks on public places in and around Paris.

 The deadliest assault was at the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were killed. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

In response, the government of then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared a state of emergency giving the police extra powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest.

Holding rallies
On Saturday Mr Cazeneuze said that “a further extension was absolutely necessary as parties and candidates were preparing to hold rallies that could be targeted by those who want to strike our democratic values and republican principles at the heart.”

The state of emergency has been criticised as unwarranted and an infringement on human rights.

More than 3,000 homes have been raided and more than 400 people arrested under the new powers. But last month Mr Valls, who has since stood down as prime minister to stand for president sought to justify a further extension.

Protecting democracy
Speaking on the anniversary of the attacks, he said democracy had to be protected as France prepared for next year’s election.

He added that there was a risk of “attacks of the kind we saw in Nice”, where a lorry driver ploughed through a crowd, killing 84 people on Bastille Day, in an attack also claimed by IS.

Mr Valls was replaced as prime minister by Mr Cazeneuve, previously interior minister on Tuesday.

Mercy Chukwudiebere