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SPOTLIGHT: STATE OF EMERGENCY, THE OBVIOUS ANSWER?

If the whole world is always in a state of emergency, does that mean there's no emergency? We're not quite there yet, but an official "state of emergency" decree, with additional regulations and the granting of special police powers, is increasingly how governments react in times of crisis.


In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency yesterday following Friday's failed military coup attempt. Just hours earlier, the French parliament agreed on extending the country's state of emergency until January 2017, following the terror attack in Nice. Meanwhile, less reported, was the decision by the government of Mali to extend its own special security regime for 10 more days after armed groups killed 17 soldiers in an attack on a military base Tuesday.


For each of these countries, this means more power for authorities and fewer rights for the people. In Turkey, Erdogan gets radically enhanced powers, such as bypassing parliament when drafting new laws, with the constitutional court unable to challenge him and his cabinet. The government can also wield more repressive powers on the country's media, protests and human rights in general. In a country where some 9,000 people have been arrested since the coup and where there are talks about reinstating the death penalty, this is troubling.


In France, the state of emergency has been criticized for its inefficiency. With yesterday's extension, in addition to measures such as exceptional powers given to the president and police, authorities will also be able to cancel events that cannot be secured and more easily shut down places of worship that advocate hatred and violence. For Mali, as well, the government has imposed the state of emergency several times over the past year for limited periods, forced to bring it back after yet another terrorist strike. At the heart of these and other examples are apparently conflicting questions: What are the risks to democratic principles of imposing a state of emergency? And, what are the benefits?

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