Confusion over Macron pledge to reintroduce conscription
The French government is grappling with how to honour Emmanuel Macron’s controversial election promise to reintroduce compulsory military service for young people.
France’s president insisted this week that his “universal national service” would include an obligatory period of between three and six months for all young men and women, to take part either in the military or in a form of civic service.
Macron conceded at a meeting of political journalists that the details of the scheme, which could be piloted from 2019, had not yet been decided. He said there would be a financial cost, adding: “I don’t think it would be prohibitive, this is not about recreating massive barracks.”
There has been confusion over the shape of the conscription scheme that would involve about 600,000 men and women aged 18–21 each year.
The French armed forces minister said last week the scheme would “probably not be obligatory”. A parliament defence committee report on the project, seen by French media, suggested any scheme should be voluntary because it was neither possible nor desirable to force people to take part.
But the government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux insisted this week that “it will be universal … and it will be obligatory.”
France phased out compulsory military service between 1996 and 2001. Macron, 40, is the first French president not to have been called up to army. A working group to define the national service will report in April.
of bank notes and diamonds from a businessman in exchange for access to legal documents.
Nor can the ANC rely on its extraordinary history and the reputations of the giants of history who led the anti-apartheid struggle to guarantee political power today.
A younger generation of ANC politicians is pushing through, and they cannot counter accusations of incompetence or wrongdoing by appealing to the efforts made by their forebears to build a multiracial democracy against the odds.
There is impatience and anger. Around 30% of the South African population is under 15, and for them the racist regime that fell in 1994 is ancient history, however toxic its legacy remains today.
The first task for Ramaphosa will be to unite the ANC before the campaign for the 2019 elections gets under way. The organisation’s political dominance is still not fundamentally threatened by opposition parties.
But the ANC must limit losses – recent municipal polls saw serious setbacks – and avoid being forced into a coalition government. This will not be easy. The disaffected followers of Zuma will need to be co-opted, or marginalised, even though many remain in positions of power, and ideological disputes which have split the ANC remain largely unresolved.
Analysts described the ANC’s choice of leader in December as a turning point for the whole country, not just the party. Now Ramaphosa is in charge of both. Fifty-four million South Africans – and many others across the continent and the world – will be watching his every pronouncement to know whether the future will bring new hope for the rainbow nation, or disappointment.
Cyril Ramaphosa, pictured last month, is poised to lead South Africa
Main image: Zuma arrives for his resignation speech in Pretoria; at Buckingham Palace in 2010; with Nelson Mandela in 2010; inaugurated in 2009