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France: Hundreds of thousands against the right in the streets

France: Hundreds of thousands against the right in the streets

According to organizers, there were about 640,000 people across the country; In the capital, Paris alone, according to the CGT Union, 250,000 participants joined the march. Paris police estimated the number of demonstrators at 75,000 in the French capital. According to the federation, a total of 182 events were organized, including in cities such as Marseille, Rennes, Lille, Bordeaux, Reims, Nantes, Bayonne, Toulon and Valenciennes.

About 21,000 police officers were on duty across the country on Saturday. The protests were largely peaceful. Tear gas was only used in Nantes and Rennes. In Paris, some municipal buildings were damaged, and masked demonstrators stormed a bank branch. Bottles were thrown at some police officers. About 21,000 police officers were deployed across the country.

“The Republic is in flames”

A coalition of five trade unions, leftist parties and organizations called for demonstrations. “It's either the extreme right or us,” French Left Party leader Mathilde Pannot said at the head of a demonstration in Paris demanding parliamentary elections.

APA/AFP/Ed Jones

In 182 cities like here in Dijon, tens of thousands of participants joined the march

Like Bhanot, several other senior politicians from the Left parties, who had fielded a Left alliance for the elections the previous day, joined the demonstration in the capital. Protesters' banners in Marseille bore phrases such as: “You don't have to vote RN to love France.”

A banner in Paris read: “Against the brown plague, paving stones for ballot boxes.” The phrases “The Republic is on fire” and “The far right is a mortal danger” can be read on banners carried by demonstrators in the streets of Nancy in northeastern France.

Opinion polls show the RN leading

The National Front party had obtained about 31.5 percent of the votes in the European elections about a week ago. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron dissolved Parliament and called new elections for the National Assembly in short order. These matches will be held in two rounds on June 30 and July 7. According to current polls, the National Front could also achieve a similar result in the parliamentary elections as in the European elections.

This would make the party the strongest force in parliament, and perhaps even appoint the prime minister. However, the National Front's strong performance in the European elections cannot automatically carry over to the parliamentary elections, as there is a majority voting system in France. The representative of the electoral district who receives the largest number of votes in the second round of runoff elections comes to Parliament.

An elderly man carries a stroller through thick fog during the use of tear gas in Nantes

APA/AFP/Romain Perucho

As here in Nantes, the police also used tear gas

Former President Hollande takes office

Former French President François Hollande suddenly announced his candidacy for the upcoming parliamentary elections. He said on Saturday in Toul in his native Corrèze region in central France that he made the decision because “the situation is dangerous” — “more than ever.” The danger from the extreme right exists. The socialist added: “Since the liberation (from the Nazis), the far right has never been so close to power.” The socialist added: “In an exceptional situation, an exceptional decision.”

Hollande admitted that it was unusual for a former president to run for election as a member of parliament in an electoral district. The 69-year-old was a Member of Parliament for Corrèze from 1988 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2012. He was President of France from 2012 to 2017.

Hollande supports the merger of left-wing parties that want to stop the National Front. When asked if he also wanted to become prime minister, Hollande replied that it was not about his personal advancement: “I was president of the republic, and I do not seek to achieve anything for myself personally.” The second round of elections stopped the right-wing populists.

Since Macron announced new elections, a scramble for alliances, positions and constituencies has dominated French politics. For example, the head of the conservative bourgeois Republicans party, Eric Ciotti, unexpectedly announced cooperation with the National Front, sparking a wave of protests within his party and his expulsion on Wednesday.

In an urgent decision issued on Friday, the court declared Ciotti's expulsion initially invalid. Le Monde reported that Ciotti will have to start the main proceedings on the case within eight tabs; This is how long he will remain head of the bourgeois conservative party. The party then announced that it would run in the parliamentary elections with independent candidates.

Scrambling left and right

Ciotti was not the only one who felt bad about the FN's flirtation: on the Monday after the European elections, Marion Marechal, the far-right Rally's front-runner for the European elections, spoke to FN leader Jordan Bardella. About cooperation. She – Le Pen's niece – was also expelled from the party.

But things are not going well for the leftist camp either. A new left-wing coalition made up of the Socialists, the Left Party, the Greens and the Communists announced on Friday that they would run in the elections together. However, they left the door open as to who would become the front runner for the New People's Front coalition (NPF). Because despite the unity shown in front of the television cameras, there is a confrontation between the Socialists and the Left Party.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a leading figure in the Left Party, wants to become prime minister if he wins. Contrary to what was the case before the European elections, the Left Party is no longer the strongest left-wing party, but rather the Socialists who scored points in the European elections with their candidate, Rafael Glucksmann. He spoke against Mélenchon as the best candidate.

On Saturday there was also great enthusiasm in the Left Party about the list of candidates for the elections, and there was talk of “cleansing” and “sectarianism.” Deserving deputies were not included in the list, such as Alexis Corbière, who accused Mélenchon of “settling his scores,” as France Info reported. Green Party Secretary General Marine Tondillier said she was “deeply shocked” by what is happening in the Left Party and called for consultations – certainly not a good start for the new left-wing coalition.

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