It may not have been as devastating as previous outrages in Paris; it was nonetheless an ugly prologue to the swelling act of the presidential theme. Two days before the process began, the ISIS has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on the police at the iconic Champs Élysées though it might be premature to speculate quite yet whether the militants were intent on influencing the presidential election.
Suffice it to register that an Islamist effort to influence the political process in the West cannot be readily ruled out. Fears that the incident could have an impact on the elections ~ as promptly predicted by Donald Trump ~ are not wholly unfounded. Not least because the outrage on the eve of the elections may yet sway the voters to the right, going by the reaction of Marine Le Pen and the conservative candidate, Francois Fillon. Both have immediately declared a “war against Islamists”.
In a quirky irony of French politics, both have conveyed the impression that they seek to gain from yet another terrorist attack in the French capital, one that has left a police officer dead in the heart of the city. Small wonder that the French Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has appealed to candidates, most particularly of the far Right, not to exploit the outrage as an electoral opportunity.
He has even accused Le Pen of seeking to divide France. In an apparent attempt to gain political mileage from the mayhem, she has made an eleventh-hour robust presentation, blaming the “so-called leaders” for failing to protect citizens ~ “Islamisation is a monstrous totalitarian ideology that has declared war on our nation, on reason, on civilization.” Palpably, the incident in the vicinity of Champs Élysées has caused a flutter in the political roost.
Any terrorist attack linked to Islamic militants will almost certainly rally voters behind Le Pen and her extreme rightwing Front National. A Le Pen victory will very probably convey an uncompromising message to France’s large Muslim minority about their place in the country, raising tensions, increasing the possibility of further attacks, and thus accelerating a cycle of violence. Whether or not a right-wing dispensation will be in a position to contain Islamist outrages is a different proposition altogether.
The Caliphate, under siege in Mosul (Iraq) and Aleppo in Syria has in the recent past emitted a signal to widen existing the social, racial and religious divisions in France and Europe in the larger perspective. ISIS tends to target countries where different cultures and faiths co-exist; the concept of pluralism is anathema to its sinister philosophy. Champs Élysées has been a symbolic target, not dissimilar to the recent attack on Parliament in London.