IThere are resignations that sound like alarm signals. That of Yannick Morez, mayor (various right) of Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (Loire-Atlantique), which he made public on Wednesday May 10, a few weeks after the arson attack which targeted his home, and after months of threats related to his support for a project to move and extend a reception center for asylum seekers, is one of them. A signal of particular gravity, in a country which, since 1946, has included the right of asylum among the supreme principles of its Constitution.
The alarm is sounding first because Mr. Morez’s defection, after a hostile campaign on social networks and a series of demonstrations, appears to be a success of far-right intimidation maneuvers. While a center for migrants has welcomed 400 people without problems for seven years in Saint-Brevin, a few activists have managed to sow discord in the town by calling for “protect our children from migrants” under the pretext of relocating the home near a school. The activists of Reconquête!, the party of Eric Zemmour, who are trying to make people forget their bitter failure in the presidential election, have succeeded, as in January in Callac (Côtes-d’Armor), in transforming a quiet locality into a place of confrontation and propaganda around their fantasy of migratory submersion.
The apparent opposition between the violent jubilation of the friends of Mr. Zemmour, delighted with the “pitiful escape” of “collaborative mayor”and the condemnation, by Marine Le Pen, of “inadmissible” intimidation aimed at elected officials, should not deceive us. That in Paris the leader of the National Rally (RN) made an assault on legalism did not prevent her local representative, Gauthier Bouchet, from haranguing the demonstrators against “immigration-invasion in Saint-Brevin and everywhere in France”, and to display his contempt for Yannick Morez. The Lepenist party remains in the background, while hoping to collect, on its favorite theme of immigration, any dividends linked to the national impact of the Saint-Brevin affair. The refusal of only RN deputies, Wednesday evening in the National Assembly, to participate in the standing ovation in support of Mr. Morez, testifies to this double game.
But the resignation of the mayor also sounds like a double failure of the state. Failure to protect the elected openly threatened – in a national context of increasing violence denounced by the Association of Mayors of France – and to support him, as he reproaches in his letter of resignation. Failure also for Emmanuel Macron, who, in September, had precisely pleaded for a better distribution of asylum seekers on the territory – a policy carried out successfully in dozens of municipalities -, but did not want or was unable to make case of Saint-Brevin the test of this policy by intervening publicly and personally, as he does in so many other areas.
The belated government support for the mayor targeted by a smear campaign, the twenty-fifth hour condemnations of the attacks that led him to resign, also sound like a warning, at a time when the executive seems to be preparing to defend yet another immigration bill. If this subject is part of the concerns of the French and constitutes a legitimate subject of debate, and possibly of reform, its instrumentalization for purely political ends always ends up benefiting the preachers of hatred and division.