Saturday, October 14, 2006

French follies

The lower house of the French parliament has approved a bill to criminalize denial of the Armenian  genocide. So, if this bill became law, it would be a crime in France to deny the genocide and a crime in Turkey to affirm it. And this comes in a context where everybody has been at great pains to defend free speech on behalf of the "secular Republic".

As Pascal Bruckner put it in another context, the problem is that in France the state is regarded as the depositary of the truth (L'état est le dépositaire de la vérité - interview on France Inter, 5 Oct.) Incidentally, Pascal Bruckner was mentioned in Paul Berman's article last year, along with Pierre Rigoulot, Michel Taubmann and André Glucksmann.

It seems likely that the government will not even present the bill to the Senate. Even so, I just can't believe the Parti Socialiste has sponsored the bill. Ségolène Royal, in particular, favours it. It's difficult to know what to make of her. I've not heard her interviewed at any length, though her "spokesman" was on the radio a week or so ago. By contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy was on France Inter on Monday (9 Oct); on the Left, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was on the Wednesday before (4 Oct) and I´ve also heard quite a lot of Laurent Fabius and François Hollande. She seems to be one who likes to 'dot the i's and cross the t's.' This makes her somewhat Blair-like (not Blairist) in control-freakery. 

We certainly seem to be getting a crash course on some of the more surprising aspects of the French constitution lately. The smoking ban, proposed for 2007 and 2008, can, apparently, be promulgated by decree, without having to be debated or voted on in parliament.


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