French President François Hollande has reluctantly agreed to allow dissidents to remain French citizens for the time being, amid protests from parliament and the public.
Hollande had originally proposed a bill that would have revoked the citizenship for anybody he deems to be a ‘terrorist’ under the country’s strict new state of emergency laws which some have labelled as Orwellian.
In a rare address to reporters following the weekly cabinet meeting, Hollande said Wednesday he had no choice. France’s two houses of parliament disagree on the bill and a compromise “seems out of reach,” he said.
“I very much regret that attitude.”
“Parts of the opposition have been hostile to a revision of the constitution,” he said. “I have decided to end this debate.”
The plan’s withdrawal is a major embarrassment for the Socialist president, who had unveiled it in a solemn address to parliament at the grand palace of Versailles only three days after the attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.
Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation after that announcement in November. But after the shock of the attacks began to fade, many on the left of the ruling Socialist party criticised the measure.
The proposal to revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists who had dual nationalities had prompted a heated political dispute in France, with the far right applauding the move while some on the left expressed indignation at what they called a divisive measure.
Opponents of the measure say it would create two classes of citizens — dual nationals who could lose their French citizenship and French citizens who cannot — in opposition to the principle of equality set out in France’s constitution.
Other criticisms included that it would be an inefficient and purely symbolic measure.
“The president is being dealt a blow by his own political friends,” a former prime minister and conservative senator, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, said on iTele. “The president’s authority over his own troops is being challenged.”
Passport confiscation clause also dropped
Hollande’s plan to insert into the constitution the rules for a state of emergency was also abandoned.
The clause for confiscating passports hit a dead end last week after the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament approved a different version from the one adopted by the Socialist-controlled lower house earlier.
To change the constitution, the government’s proposal needed to be approved by each house of parliament in exactly the same terms.
“It’s going to revive the perception of a president who is not determined, who lacks authority, whose hand is shaking,” said Frederic Dabi, at the pollster Ifop. “It also reinforces the feeling of a term during which reforms have dragged on, got bogged down.”
State of emergency until May 26
Under the current law from 1955, the state of emergency lasts 12 days and can be extended for an indefinite period by a vote of the parliament.
The “threat remains higher than ever,” Hollande said, adding he is committed to “ensure our country’s security and protect the French from terrorism”.
The country’s state of emergency, swiftly declared by the government on the night of the attacks, was recently extended to May 26. It extends some police powers of search and arrest and limits public gatherings, among other changes.