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CRIME

French police officer killed in drugs bust was ‘hero in the war on drugs’

French politicians and police unions paid tribute on Thursday to an officer killed during a drugs raid in the southern city of Avignon.

French police officer killed in drugs bust was 'hero in the war on drugs'
Police at the scene of the drug bust in Avignon, southern France, on May 5th. Photo: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

The 36-year-old officer and father of two was killed on Wednesday evening while investigating a gathering at a spot in central Avignon known for drug-dealing, interior minister Gérald Darmanin said.

On arriving at the scene around 6.30pm the plainclothes officers began to carry out identity checks on those present when a suspect opened fire, a police source told AFP.

The source said the man fired “several times” at the slain officer and that the other officers returned fire but did not manage to apprehend the shooter before he fled on a kick scooter.

Darmanin said that the police and emergency services attempted in vain to save the officer’s life and called it “a terrible tragedy”.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin held a press conference at the police station in Avignon. Photo: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

The killing caused shock among the police, who had for months been warning that the drug-related violence that has long afflicted Marseille, a key hub in the trans-Mediterranean marijuana and cocaine trade, had spread to other southern cities such as Avignon, Montpellier and Perpignan.

READ ALSO: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A police union official said that the officers involved in Wednesday’s operation were in plainclothes but wearing police armbands.

Visiting the scene on Wednesday evening Darmanin eulogised the dead officer as a “soldier”, saying he “died a hero” in what he called a “war” against drug dealers.

Polls show crime being one of the top concerns of voters ahead of next year’s presidential election, in which Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term.

ANALYSIS: Are crime rates really spiralling in France?

The police complain that the state is not doing enough to protect them as they take the fight to drugs syndicates and radical Islamists.

“Today we have to admit that the state is no longer protecting its officers,” Frederic Lagache, a representative of the Alliance police union told AFP on Thursday. 

Eric Ciotti, an MP for the centre-right Les Républicans party, accused the government of “looking the other way” while “France sinks deeper into chaos every day.”

The deputy leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Adrien Quatennens, said for his part that it was time to reopen the debate about legalising marijuana.

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POLITICS

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

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