On Thursday, April 20, the world once again watched in horror as France dealt with yet another attack. This latest incident robbed the police force of one of its own, Xavier Jugele. At the time of the writing of this article, many French citizens are preparing to rest in order to wake up and brave the polls amidst mass uncertainty about their own safety.
Ever since 2012, France has been the target of ISIL attacks, and while this one claimed the life of one person, France has suffered more than 200 casualties. The timing of the attack coinciding of the French election is significant. It’s an election that has been colored by discussions around terrorism, border security, and even whether France should continue to be a part of the European Union.
One of the biggest proponents of many of these ideas is Marine Le Pen, who many draw similarities with President Donald Trump due to their nationalist ideals. Analysts are not convinced that this attack will necessitate a victory for Le Pen, but rather that it does provide a great deal of uncertainty which could be to her advantage. As a far-right National Front candidate, Marine has been steadfast in her position on ISIL and the threat it poses to French society and the world. When questioned about her thoughts on ISIL and French security by RFI radio, Le Pen was quite liberal in her speech.
“I cannot say more than this, but, we do know that at least one terrorist was deployed by ISIS to carry out attacks on French soil ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting, and that this person is probably still at large.”
Tensions have been high since the attack and the French authorities have spared no resources to protect and secure polling stations for the first round of voting later today. Police and gendarmes, more militarized civil law enforcers, will be out during this election at a time when the country is in a state of emergency.
The gunman at the center of this atrocity is Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old Parisian who has had a history of anti-police sentiments and behaviors. Now in the wake of his death after a shootout with police, there are several reports about mental instability and questions about the police’s reluctance to further investigate him as a terror suspect. Despite these sudden revelations, many of the people who were in contact with Cheurfi did not consider him as radicalized or even showing signs of radicalization.
In all this, there is another looming concern: the politicization of this attack. Candidates are now using the France attack as a means of supporting tougher measures and policies on Muslims and terror. Francois Fillon has a slightly different tone to Le Pen, he wants to fight against a brand of totalitarianism that is rooted in Islam. Even Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, while both condemning the attacks, have had to place a degree of emphasis on how they plan to combat future terror threats in the country. This becomes concerning due to the far-reaching effects this terrorist rhetoric can have on French Muslims, and by extension, Muslims in Europe in general.
However, political players in France are not all happy with the direction of the discourse currently being used in framing the France attack. The French Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has accused Marine Le Pen of turning this tragedy into an opportunity for political gain.
U.S. president Donald Trump was quick in offering his condolences to the family of the fallen officer and equally as fast, turned to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the matter.
Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
When speaking to the Associated Press, President Trump considered Marine Le Penn to be one of the strongest candidates in the race. This view is supported by many who feel that the emotional and public outcry from the attack will help to mobilize not only her base, but many of the undecided voters. While it is impossible to know how things will pan out over the next 24 hours, the France attack will definitely weigh on the minds of voters in some form or capacity. The results of the French election not only impacts France, but has extensive consequences for everyone in the rest of the world.
[Featured Image by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images]