Resilient Mayors Unite in Paris Despite Attacks

Mayors’ Convention to Discuss Increased Violence Against Elected Officials

Often victims of physical violence and more frequently of threats and insults from increasingly uncompromising constituents, mayors will gather in Paris next Tuesday, November 21st, to discuss their daily lives and rekindle their desire to act in the face of the sense of powerlessness they are experiencing.

The rise in violence against elected officials is a symbol of the growing conflict in political life “at all levels.” The theme of the 105th congress of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF) speaks for itself, following a series of attacks that have marked the year 2023, from the arson attack on the home of the mayor of Saint-Brevin (Loire-Atlantique) to the car ramming attack on his colleague in L’Haÿ-les-Roses (Val-de-Marne) during the summer riots.

The outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7th and the assassination of Professor Dominique Bernard have not improved this already oppressive climate. According to the Ministry of the Interior, attacks on elected officials have increased from 2,265 last year to 2,387 as of November 12th, which is expected to result in a 15% increase in 2023. Threats and insults make up 70% of the cases, while physical violence remains “minority” and “do not increase.”

The government has made several announcements since the attack in Saint-Brevin, but these have not always been convincing. This is in order to better assess the phenomenon and strengthen the punitive measures. A proposition of a law adopted by the Senate in early October aligns the criminal sanctions for an attack on an elected official with those already imposed when it targets a public authority.

In addition, a “psychological support center” for mayors and their families, open 7 days a week and with a hotline, will be launched on Monday, as announced by Dominique Faure last Sunday. But the attacks are not only coming from constituents.

Thus, the powerful AMF has for years been warning of a “creeping recentralization” by the State, which has now become “galloping” and has stripped all power from the elected officials. According to the Cevipof survey published in Le Monde, the rate of mayoral resignations has increased by 30% compared to the previous term, revealing a “republican fatigue.”

“We are under the effect of a double suffocation: administrative and financial,” said André Laignel (PS), number 2 at the AMF, citing as an example the announcements of new plans made “every 15 days” by the government. Despite the signal sent by the State by increasing its main allocation to local authorities for two years in a row, the AMF estimates that they have lost 7 billion euros “in terms of the ability to act” in the 2024 budget project, due in large part to the lack of compensation for inflation.

“Financial autonomy has become a total fantasy. As for the free administration of local authorities, it is in tatters,” laments André Laignel. A situation that does not yet “threaten” the commitment of mayors, according to Cevipof, which states that the officials “resist the accumulation of crises.”

More than 10,000 participants and 230 speakers are expected from Tuesday to Thursday at Porte de Versailles in Paris, where 39 topics will be debated, including the conditions of exercising the mandate.

The congress will also be an occasion for the AMF to renew its institutions. Fifteen ministers are announced, while the Prime Minister will speak on Thursday afternoon. Emmanuel Macron is expected to visit the “salon” on Wednesday, where the exhibitors are located, although he will not participate in the congress. André Laignel ironically invited him to “cross the street.” In addition, more than 1,000 mayors will be received at the Elysée on Wednesday evening.

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