Dictatorship Blog: November 15 2015

On Friday, the French President declared a state of emergency which, at time of writing, is still in place. Six times this declaration has been made since WWII but it’s only the second time (in the same period) such a state has been imposed within the French mainland. Nevertheless, France is accustomed to states of exception.

France’s most extreme weapon of emergency is the state of siege, whose origins are in the French Revolution but which only became a regular instrument of emergency government after the 1848 revolutions. It was used for the Franco-Prussian war and its aftermath as well as the two world wars.

A state of siege is slightly different from the state of emergency with the latter more controlled by the civil authorities whereas the former transfers more power to the military: hence the more severe nature of a state of siege. States of emergency became more used in the 20th century.

Many countries are influenced by the French emergency laws. They are slightly different from an English martial law declaration in terms of the authority for such actions but both are similar in effect.

France’s state of emergency and state of siege are regulated by Articles 16 and 36 of the 1958 constitution, respectively.

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