France drops contested plan to strip terrorists of nationality
PARIS - French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday he was scrapping contested constitutional reforms proposed after the Paris attacks, in an embarrassing U-turn for his already beleaguered government.
The reforms included a plan to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality which led to howls of protests from the left flank of his Socialist party.
Hollande also wanted to enshrine in the constitution a state of emergency adopted after the November 13 Paris attacks, in which suicide bombers and gunmen from the Islamic State group killed 130 people.
But after four months of fierce debate, the lower house National Assembly and opposition-dominated Senate failed to agree on the text.
"A compromise appears out of reach on the stripping of terrorists' nationality," Hollande said.
"I also note that a section of the opposition is hostile to any constitutional revision. I deeply regret this attitude," the president said in a brief televised statement.
"I have decided to close the constitutional debate (but) I will not deviate from the commitments I have taken... to ensure the security of our country."
Hollande's move to drop the reform comes as authorities in Europe face increasing criticism over laxism and security failings in the face of the spread of radical Islam.
Links have emerged between the IS cell which attacked Paris and the suicide bombers who struck Brussels last week, killing 32 people.
"The threat remains higher than ever," said Hollande.
"Islamist terrorism has declared war against us, against France, Europe, the entire world."
The decision to abandon the constitutional reform comes as a massive blow to Hollande who is hoping to run for re-election in presidential polls next year.
Hollande was France's most unpopular leader in modern history when Paris suffered its first terror attack of 2015, when gunmen killed 17 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and at a Jewish supermarket in January.
His popularity briefly rose over his handling of the attacks, but not for long, and the constitutional debate as well as fierce opposition from the street to proposed labour reforms have further eroded his support.
The leader of the far-right National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen said Hollande's decision to scrap the constitutional reform was "a historical failure".
"Francois Hollande fails to have his own words taken seriously. He and his government are the only ones responsible for this failure," Le Pen said.
However Hollande's Socialist party said the right-wing opposition was responsible for the "sad spectacle".
"We apologise to the French people. We were not able to convince the right in general ... to reinforce our law in the fight against terrorism," said party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis.
"This withdrawal does not call into question the fight against terrorism and the effectiveness of the state and its services. But it does not reinforce our legal defence against terrorists," said Cambadelis.