The murder of 86-year-old Jacques Hamel in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray has triggered an interesting chassé-croisé on the right. Nicolas Sarkozy, pursuing his relentless droitisation strategy in pursuit of the presidency, has called for doing away with all legal niceties (arguties juridiques) in the "war on terror." These legal niceties apparently include such fundamental provisions of the rule of law as the presumption of innocence. If la loi des suspects was good enough for the Revolution, it should be good enough for the 21st Century, to hear Sarkozy tell it.
But the Sarkozian surenchère has handed Marine Le Pen a golden opportunity to continue her dédiabolisation, and she has not been slow to seize it. What France needs, she avers in a calm and even tone, contrasting sharply with Sarkozy's shrillness, is "restoration of the rule of law" and scrupulous respect for the Constitution. "Laws are not being enforced."
This puts the putative extremist on the side of the government she decries while casting her as the level head in contrast to both her chief rival on the respectable right, the hothead Sarkozy, and his chief rival for the Republican nomination, the normally unflappable and oh-so-level-headed quintessential énarque Alain Juppé. Juppé was off in New Caledonia when the attack in Saint-Etienne occurred, with no TV crew in tow, and in his haste to get back in the game he seems to have lost, as Le Pen puts it, his sang-froid.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen's niece and potential rival for FN leadership, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, remains as unconcerned with legal niceties as Sarkozy. But her battle cry is not "Lock them all up!" but rather "Christians arise!" "Rise and resist Islamism!" she proclaims forthrightly. "If the state cannot protect the French, the French will protect themselves.""
A 19-year-old with a knife has thus thrown the French presidential race into a bit of a tizzy.