Tensions between Taubira and President François Hollande have been building for some time now. Though the proposed measure is purportedly symbolic, the justice minister warned that an “important pillar” of French citizenship was at stake, and that the move threatens to exacerbate divisions between French citizens. Despite the government’s claims of an amiable split, Taubira’s frustrations were evident. On Wednesday, the outgoing minister tweeted: “Sometimes to resist means staying, sometimes to resist means leaving.”
Though not entirely unexpected, Taubira’s resignation will nonetheless leave a big gap in Hollande’s cabinet. She had been one of the Socialist-led government’s most vocal leftist figures (remember, the French Guyana-born minister led the charge for 2013’s same-sex marriage law). With Taubira out, Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a hard-liner who often clashed with the justice minister, are free to push through special security measures — i.e., an extended state of emergency, special powers for law enforcement and city officials to conduct raids and place people under house arrest, and the aforementioned “loss of nationality” law, all of which have garnered their fair share of criticism from human rights advocates.
Beyond the immediate repercussions, Taubira’s departure sets the stage for a shakeup at the Elysée Palace, namely the government’s shift further to the right. The timing is propitious. Hollande’s bête noir – the inexhaustible former president, Nicolas Sarkozy – is back on the scene with a new book, “La France pour la vie” (“France for life”), showing that he’s gearing up for, well, something. Although the former president continues to hem and haw about the possibility of a another presidential run, his new book– a mea culpa designed to rectify his unpopular image among many voters as a braggart, and a bestseller in France – is a bold hint that, at the least, Sarkozy is circling the waters.
Which leaves President Hollande, himself hemming and hawing over a possible bid for re-election, to continue his efforts to bolster his government’s popularity in the lead-up to the 2017 race – notably by mirroring the opposition Republicans party (formerly called the UMP, and currently led by Sarkozy) when it comes to hot-button issues like security and immigration under the guidance of Valls. (See: France’s top cop nabs premier gig)
The president has replaced Taubira with Socialist minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas, who happens to be a co-architect of the controversial constitutional changes mentioned above. With his leftist, outspoken conscience out the door, Hollande’s lurch to the right continues.