French officials have spoken out against a controversial open letter issued by 20 retired generals warning of a possible “civil war”.
The letter was published by the far-right magazine Valeurs Actuelles in April.
“The situation is serious. France is in danger, ”said the first sentence of the letter.
He went on to say that France is in a state of “disintegration” and that the failure of the government to act against the “suburban hordes” “would despise the country and result in the deaths of thousands of people.”
By suburban hordes, the authors meant predominantly Muslim immigrant communities, many of whom live in the suburbs. The generals have vowed to take matters into their own hands if necessary to protect “the values of our civilization”.
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The letter was widely dismissed as an extravagant stunt filled with baseless claims, not even worthy of a reaction from the political mainstream.
In other words, until the far right sees it as an opportunity.
In a written response, far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged the generals to “join her in the battle for France”.
“I can say that I share their concern, I share their assessment,” Le Pen told French television last month.
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Although she did not approve of the threat of a coup by the generals, she chose instead to say that “this problem is solved by politics”.
Le Pen is alluding to the upcoming presidential elections in 2022, where crime, terrorism and radical extremism have already taken center stage.
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A second letter was published earlier this month – this time by a group of anonymous soldiers – who said they supported the generals’ demands.
This created a difficult balance for the centrist party of President Emmanuel Macron, which has been accused of indulging in the right recently to gain more votes from mainstream conservatives.
“This letter would have been insignificant, without Le Pen’s political maneuvers. ”
“This letter would have been insignificant, without Le Pen’s political maneuvering,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said several days after its initial publication.
Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces, said those who signed it would be punished for breaking a law that prevents them from expressing their opinions publicly.
But some say Macron’s government acted too late.
Rim-Sarah Alouane, a comparative law researcher at the University of Toulouse, said the defense minister’s response time of four to five days “was long enough for such a letter of sedition,” Alouane said.
“It gives Marine Le Pen even more legitimacy to be elected… after that, her chances have increased by 200%.
A poll released shortly after the letter went viral found that astonishing 58% of people supported it – although some analysts question the methodology of the survey.
Jean Yves Camus, a Paris-based political scientist and student of the far right, said he had no doubt that for most people crime and terrorism were pressing problems.
“But does that really mean that they agree that tomorrow the army could take to the streets, take power and organize a coup?” No, I don’t believe that, ”Camus said.
But civil war was never the real threat, Rim-Sarah Alouane said.
“Don’t take seriously the guys in the military who just miss the past that no longer exists – but take seriously the impact it has on politics as well as on people who don’t know better. “
“Don’t take seriously the guys in the military who just regret the past that no longer exists – but take seriously the impact it has on politics as well as on people who don’t know any better,” he said. declared Alouane.
We’ve seen far-right candidates come to power in this exact way before, she said, from Hungary to Austria and even the United States.
She fears that if Macron doesn’t do more to counter these claims head-on, his party could experience a rude awakening next year.