State of emergency in France may be extended to protect elections

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Newly appointed French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier - RTSV3LM

Newly appointed French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, December 7, 2016. Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Saying the terrorism risk in France remains high following the Paris attack last November that left 130 dead, France’s Prime Minister on Saturday said he will push to extend its state of emergency to protect the upcoming election.

The status is supposed to be used in “cases of imminent danger,” or events that threaten a public disaster, according to France24. It gives police more power to search and detain people among other exceptions such as declaring curfews and confiscating certain weapons even when people are holding them legally.

The state of emergency in place now was enacted after the Nov. 13, 2015, assaults by Islamic State militants and was approaching a mid-January expiration, having been previously extended four times.

But Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters after a special cabinet meeting on Saturday that it has thwarted 17 potential attacks this year. Extending it to July 15, ahead of the 2017 election, is essential, Cazeneuve said.

“The state of emergency is not permanent, it’s a lever we have to pull in the face of an imminent peril,” he said.

The presidential and parliamentary elections will happen in April and June, and Bastille Day is July 14.

The prospect of an extension was mentioned last month by former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who stepped down this week to pursue a campaign for presidency. Valls told the BBC on the anniversary of the attack that he would seek an extension to protect democracy.

But the extra police powers have been criticized as an infringement on human rights. More than 3,000 homes have been raided and 400 people arrested under them, according to the BBC.

This is the third time France has declared a state of emergency since the end of the 1962 war with Algeria, according to France24. The first time was in December 1984 amid violence in New Caledonia, a French archipelago, then again in 2005 during riots in Paris suburbs.

Parliament still has to approve the extension, a measure that will be discussed next week.

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