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‘Outbreaks of violence are feared’: 51 politicians and supporters attacked as French election looms

More than 50 candidates and their supporters have been attacked ahead of a second round of voting in France’s parliamentary elections.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said politicians from across the spectrum had faced verbal and physical abuse – often while they were putting up campaign posters.

He told BFM that several of the attacks had been “extremely serious” – with the three-week campaign overshadowed by violence that left some victims in hospital.

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Confirming there will be a greater police presence on the streets during Sunday’s vote, he warned: “Outbreaks of violence are to be feared.”

At least 30 suspects from “extremely varied backgrounds” have been arrested so far – with far-right National Rally candidates and left-wing politicians among those targeted.

Tensions remain high after President Emmanuel Macron called the surprise election on 9 June after suffering a punishing defeat at the hands of the far-right National Rally in the European parliamentary elections.

National Rally, under leader Jordan Bardella, secured the most votes in the first round of the election on 30 June.

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But the party didn’t secure enough to claim an overall victory that would allow them to form France’s first far-right government since the Second World War.

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Sunday’s vote will decide whether the anti-immigration group win an absolute legislative majority – a first in France – in what could be a major historical shift reflecting wider trends across Europe.

Mr Darmanin said that 30,000 police officers would be deployed on Sunday, including 5,000 in the Paris region.

Gatherings outside the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament, have been banned.

But a group called the Antifascist Action Paris-Suburbs called for a protest outside the building on Sunday night as results come in.

A protest on 3 July at Republique plaza. Pic: AP
Image:
A protest on 3 July at Republique plaza. Pic: AP

Government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot was one of the most recent victims of violence.

Along with a deputy and party activist, the candidate for Mr Macron’s Ensemble alliance was attacked by a group when putting up election posters in Paris on Wednesday night.

It led to the deputy and party activist being taken to hospital and four people – three of them under 18 – were in custody.

A few hours after being targeted, Ms Thevenot spoke about her worries as a person of Mauritian descent in a “complicated” political situation in France, in an interview with broadcaster TF1.

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A woman walks past posters that read 'Go vote!'. Pic: AP
Image:
A woman walks past posters that read ‘Go vote! (if you can)’. Pic: AP

She said: “I don’t say this only as spokesperson of the government, but more as the daughter of immigrants and mother of mixed-race children.

“They no longer do it anonymously, but with uncovered faces and even with a certain pride.”

Many people have voiced concerns that the surge in voter support for National Rally has made people feel more comfortable using racist, xenophobic and antisemitic language in public.

National Rally candidate Marie Dauchy was assaulted on Wednesday when campaigning at a food market.

It led to her abandoning the race as Marine Le Pen called two men allegedly responsible for the attack “cowardly”.

People gather at Republique plaza in a protest following results in the first round of France's elections. Pic: AP
Image:
People gather at Republique plaza in a protest following results in the first round of France’s elections. Pic: AP

Meanwhile in the Alps, 77-year-old local official Bernard Dupre was beaten while putting up campaign posters for former health minister Olivier Veran.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said: “Let’s reject the climate of violence and hatred that is taking hold.”

“This climate [of violence] is deplorable,” Ms Le Pen also said in a TV interview.


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One candidate for Mr Macron’s campaign had to be assigned private security guards by her party after she was the target of antisemitic abuse.

Pamphlets targeting black people also appeared in mailboxes in the Paris suburb of Chatou.

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