It is a phenomenon that worries more and more: 2,265 acts of verbal and physical violence against elected officials in 2022, against 1,720 in 2021, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior. In the context of the resignation of the mayor of Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (Loire-Atlantique), target of an arson attack on his home caused by opponents of the construction of a reception center for asylum seekers (Cada), the State will install this Wednesday, May 17 a Center for the analysis and fight against violence against elected officials.
Already, in October 2020, the powerful Association of Mayors of France (AMF) set up an Observatory of attacks against elected officials “in the exercise or because of their functions”. Malevolence that sometimes affects their families. “The situation has continued to worsen”, is alarmed at the AMF, denouncing a “spiral of violence that attacks our democracy” and a “trivialization of political violence”.
Minister in charge of local authorities, Dominique Faure gave some indications on the work of the future Center for the analysis and fight against violence against elected officials, intended to strengthen “prevention”. First objective, in progress: to “map” them and “understand their origin”. Another action planned: provoke a “civic shock” in liaison with the Ministry of National Education and Youth. In fact, the AMF points as one of the origins of the phenomenon to the legitimate “non-respect of authority”, that is to say its power to make itself obeyed.
Beyond the work of review and analysis, the legislator has several times reinforced the repressive aspect. A new law is thus planned “before the summer”. Its main measure should be to apply aggravating circumstances in the event of violence committed against a “holder of a public elective office”.
On the model of what already exists for the depositaries of public authority (magistrates, police, gendarmes, etc.), which includes mayors under their hat as representatives of the State. This hardening had already been provided for by senatorial amendment in the orientation and programming law of the Ministry of the Interior (Lopmi), before being censored in January by the Constitutional Council as a legislative horseman, in other words unrelated to the original text.
Prior to the sanction, the AMF is concerned with the entire procedure, from the filing to the processing of the complaint. “The mayors must be heard and their complaints taken into account: the classifications without follow-up for lack of means of investigation of the police or the gendarmerie, which are today, in reality, the rule, must become the exception”, underline its services.
The State has nevertheless already reacted, with two circulars to prosecutors, in November 2019 and then in September 2020, the latter insisting on “the importance attached to the implementation of a penal policy marked by voluntarism, firmness and speed and enhanced judicial monitoring of criminal proceedings”.
More recently, a law of January 2023, resulting from a consensual senatorial initiative, now allows assemblies and associations (Regions of France, Assembly of French departments, Association of mayors of France, etc.) to bring civil action to support the penal an elected victim of aggression.
This was already the case, but in a more restrictive way, only for departmental associations affiliated to the AMF, and only for certain types of offenses (insult, defamation, contempt, threat or assault). This field is therefore now extended to all crimes and misdemeanors against persons and property, as well as press offences, a category that includes publications on social networks. If this enlargement strengthens the protection of the people concerned, its need illustrates this worrying increase in violence.