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France Must Seize the Moment

Carpe diem, François.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    France’s socialist government faces the twin threats of radicalism and the increasingly powerful right-wing National Front.

  • Facts


    • Four million French people took part in street demonstrations after the Paris attacks.
    • There are growing calls for improved security in France and initiatives to tackle radicalism.
    • The National Front has so far failed to capitalize on the attacks.
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A new metaphor has taken hold in France: “The Spirit of January 11.”

It refers to the national unity expressed in the mass demonstrations held on that day against the Paris terror attacks, and the new, more optimistic feeling in the country. President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls are benefiting as an overwhelming majority of citizens acknowledge that they showed themselves to be strong political leaders during and after the horrfic events.

Both politicians realize that this is a temporary situation, but the embrace of national unity offers an opportunity to speed up many things that have long seemed at an impasse. The four million people who took to the streets were, in effect, demanding changes in France.

They stood up for liberty, equality and fraternity. They now expect politicians to accept their responsibility and ensure this slogan becomes more than words and is used as a philosophy guiding their actions.

It’s not yet clear whether the government will set the pace expected of it, but if they don’t the National Front, the deeply conservative nationalist party that has been largely forgotten about in the past ten days, will rise again.

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