Morning Brief

France Reels from Second Terror Attack in a Month

In reacting to the attack in Nice, Macron again leaned on the rhetoric that has caused uproar across the Muslim world.

Right-wing party Les Republicains (LR) MP Eric Ciotti, French President Emmanuel Macron and Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi visit the scene of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in Nice on October 29, 2020.
Right-wing party Les Republicains (LR) MP Eric Ciotti, French President Emmanuel Macron and Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi visit the scene of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in Nice on October 29, 2020. Eric Gaillard/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Authorities in France investigate knife attacker who killed three people in Nice, the U.S. presidential race enters its final turn, and Polish protesters march on Warsaw.

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‘It Is France That Is Under Attack’

French President Emmanuel Macron chairs a meeting of his security cabinet today in the wake of a deadly attack in Nice yesterday, in which three people were killed in the Notre-Dame basilica by a knife-wielding assailant.

The attacker is believed to be Brahim Aouissaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant who had entered France illegally after being refused entry into Italy. Aouissaoui, who was captured alive by French authorities, is being investigated for links to terrorist groups.

In a speech to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron, described the attack as an act of terrorism. Carrying on from the rhetoric he used following the killing of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by an 18-year-old Chechen man, Macron described France as being in an existential battle. “It is France that is under attack,” the president said.

Rising anger. Macron has been under fire from leaders of many Muslim-majority countries in recent weeks, after a number of remarks that have been perceived as attacks on the Muslim faith, especially his declaration that “Islam is a religion that is experiencing a crisis across the world.” Protests have taken place across the world including in Mali, Iran, and Bangladesh. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the opportunity to burnish his credentials as a defender of Muslims as well as a chance to ridicule Macron.

A far-right challenge. Although it seems to have backfired internationally, Macron’s culture war rhetoric may be for an audience closer to home. A recent poll of voting intentions in France’s 2022 first-round presidential election shows Macron neck and neck with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, with both receiving the support of 25 percent of voters. As H.A. Hellyer argued recently in FP, much of Macron’s harsh rhetoric regarding Islam can be seen as an overture to Le Pen’s supporters.

Although Macron faces a far-right challenge, after two gruesome attacks the perception that the French way of life is under threat now seems to be shared across French society. A poll taken after the attack on Samuel Paty found that 87 percent of respondents said that France’s secularist society was under threat.

What We’re Following Today

U.S. election enters final phase. As we enter the final weekend of the 2020 campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump will begin his day with a rally in Michigan and end it with a rally in Minnesota, and still have time for one in Wisconsin in between. Vice President Mike Pence headlines two rallies in Arizona, while his rival running mate Sen. Kamala Harris visits Texas. Not to be outdone by Trump, Democratic challenger Joe Biden will also visit three states today with stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Throughout the campaign, FP has provided reporting from across the country, looking at smaller communities of voters whose connections span the globe, from Indian Americans in Texas, Latinos in Georgia, Irish Americans in Pennsylvania, and Colombian Americans in Florida. Catch up on the entirety of our Election 2020 coverage here. 

Putin wants Turkey in Nagorno-Karabakh talks. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for Turkey to be included in future peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey supports Azerbaijan in the conflict and has been vocal about being left out of talks that have so far been led by the OSCE Minsk Group led by France, Russia, and the United States. Speaking to a Russian investment forum on Thursday, Putin said that Turkey “and a host of European states” should be included in order to find consensus on the issue.

Protesters march on Warsaw. Thousands are expected to descend on Poland’s capital Warsaw today after a week of constant protests over a constitutional court decision to further restrict abortion rights in the country. The protests come as President Andrzej Duda appeared to soften the official line on abortions, saying they should be possible in the case of fetuses with deadly defects. “It cannot be that the law requires this kind of heroism from a woman,” Duda told a local radio station.

Keep an Eye On

The other upcoming elections: Ivory Coast and Moldova. Months of anxiety come to a head in Ivory Coast this weekend, as Alassane Ouattara runs for a third term as president of the West African nation. Ouattara’s decision to run again—after his anointed successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died earlier this year—has caused an outcry among opposition leaders, who say he should not be legally allowed to stand in the election. Writing in Foreign Policy, Jessica Moody outlines the stakes—and controversies—surrounding Saturday’s election.

President Igor Dodon is seeking a second term when his country goes to the polls in the first of two rounds of voting in the Moldovan presidential election. The pro-Russian Dodon goes up against the pro-European Maia Sandu in a rerun of the 2016 election, when the outcome was decided by roughly 70,000 votes. Moldovans living in Russia will be able to vote, too—and there will be more than twice as many polling stations available to them compared to 2016, which should give Dodon a further edge.

Tanzania election aftermath. The U.S. Embassy in Tanzania warned of “credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation” in the country’s presidential and legislative election, held last Wednesday. Preliminary results show incumbent John Magufuli in the lead, numbers his challenger Tundu Lissu does not believe are legitimate. “The results should not be recognized by any country in the world,” Lissu told Reuters. 

Odds and Ends

Newly locked down France and Germany should look to Finland for advice on how to balance newly imposed restrictions with overall life satisfaction. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, Finland weathered lockdown restrictions better than any other European nation, with 73 percent of Finns saying they were very or fairly easy to live under; 23 percent of Finns said that the restrictions even improved their daily lives. Along with Finland, the Netherlands, Estonia, and Latvia top the list of European countries which tolerated their lockdowns best. At the bottom of the list was Portugal, where 62 percent found it difficult or very difficult to adapt to life under lockdown.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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