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France braces for riots, high street stores in Paris board up amid threats of left-wing violence as Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally is set to win elections

In the country’s most divisive election, the three weeks of campaigning and election process in France have been marred with large-scale violence and incidences of rioting. According to French media, more than 50 candidates and activities were injured.

On Sunday (7th July), France is holding the second and final round of voting for the 577-member strong National Assembly. As per reports, the country is bracing for riots and large-scale violence by supporters of the left-wing parties as reports indicate a major win for Marine Le Pen’s hard-right National Rally in the snap elections. The images coming out of Paris showed that dozens of popular high-street stores including Zara, Louis Vuitton, and Pull & Bear among others had started to barricade their shops.

To protect their shops from theft and vandalism, the shopkeepers have framed the building’s exterior with wooden boards, plywood, shutters, metal frames, etc amidst growing fears of rioting by left-wing demonstrators. 

French daily “Le Figaro” reported that police are expecting large-scale violence by radical left-wing activists following the election results, and are deploying heavy forces on the streets. The report stated that the Paris police prefecture warned businesses that there was a real risk of excesses and violence on Sunday evening, once the results of the second round of the elections were announced. 

Reportedly, stores with glass facades have been instructed to barricade the stores, and accordingly, the stores have boarded up the stores. The stores are completely covered with wooden boards or steel frames with nets to protect them from vandalism.

Additionally, the stores will shut down by 7.30 pm, so that the staff can leave before 8 pm when the results are expected to be announced.

Rue de Rivoli, the commercial street in Paris where stores of leading fashion brands are located is feared to be a prime target of violent protestors. Additionally, several banks have also reportedly barricaded their buildings in fear of imminent left-wing violence.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin admitted that excesses are anticipated on Sunday evening. He said that everyone must fear excesses that probably come more from the far left.

While lest is expected to trigger the violence, the police also expect some violence from the far-right even if the right wins. Police sources said that violence will come from extremist movements regardless of the result, whether it is to rejoice in the victory of one camp or to denounce the victory of the other camp. The police fear spontaneous gatherings from Sunday evening, with the risk of tensions between antagonistic groups.

According to French and International media, massive rioting is expected in France as the country has been witnessing large-scale violence over the past few weeks, especially after Marine Le Pen’s National Rally registered a major surge in the first phase of polling.  

(Supporters of the left-wing Popular Front staged a protest in large numbers near Place de la Republique on 30th June 2024 in Paris, France, Image Source – Getty/Daily Mail)

Notably, in the country’s most divisive election, the three weeks of campaigning and election process in France have been marred with large-scale violence and incidences of rioting. According to French media, more than 50 candidates and activities were injured.

(Snippet from media report regarding large scale violence during Election campaigning in France)

Following the first round of voting which saw the rise of the National Rally, hordes of left-wing party supporters and demonstrators vandalised public property, smashed windows of several shops, littered thrash cans, torched them, and clashed with Police personnel in several locations.   

(Left-wing demonstrators have been staging ‘protests’, carrying out acts of vandalism, rioting across Paris and other cities following reports indicating major surge for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in snap elections, Image Source – The Sun)

There is a growing concern about the increased number of ‘protests’, vandalism, and rioting, particularly in several central and prominent areas within Paris, including Rue de Rivoli, the Opera area, and the Champs-Elysees. The French Police are locking down these areas. 

(Left-wing protesters at a statue in Paris’ Place de la Republique, Image Credit – Reuters/The Sun)
(After witnessing arson and vandalism by left-wing extremists, France braces for more protests and large scale left-wing violence as reports indicate Marine Le Pen’s victory, Image Source – The Sun)

Amidst threats of protests and violence by left-wing extremists in case of an imminent victory of Marine Le Pen’s party, the incumbent French Minister of the Interior has announced that around 30,000 police personnel will be deployed across France, including 5,000 in Paris, to deal with the potential unrest. 

According to the Interior Ministry, in the first phase of polling, the National Rally secured 33% of the vote. It was followed by the left-wing New Popular Front alliance which got 28% votes. Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance lagged in a distant third position with just 20% of votes. As per the French Parliamentary election system, anyone who fails to win 12.5% of votes in their area is kicked out. 

(French Exit Poll, Credit – Daily Mail Online)

Last week, thousands of angry left-wing voters rioted vandalised public property, and launched fireworks after the first round of snap parliamentary elections concluded on 30th June. In many areas across Paris, they clashed with riot cops, particularly in Place de la Republique, where police were seen clashing with protesters into the early hours of the morning. As per French media, at least 51 political candidates and activists have been injured in violent attacks in the last week. 

In one such violent clash, the angry mob broke the jaw of Virginie Lanlo who is a Macron activist and deputy of the French National Assembly. 

According to reports, Macron has become unpopular in the country. His face has been removed from campaign posters. His own party has asked him to not go out on the campaign trail due to high rates of unpopularity. Following the disastrous results of Macron’s centrist Together coalition in last week’s vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said the hard right was at the “gates of power”. 

Earlier, the government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot was attacked on Wednesday. Thevenot is a candidate for the centrist Ensemble Pour la Republique alliance led by Macron. She said that she along with a deputy and a party activist were putting up election posters in Meudon near Paris when a group attacked them.

In May, Macron had called for a snap election and it was seen as a major gamble as he still had three years tenure as French President. 

While Marine Le Pen’s party is projected to lead, the snap elections in France could throw a hung assembly. 

According to the recent polling in the Economist, France is heading for a hung parliament. The French parliament has 577 seats and a party needs 289 seats for full majority. Reports projected Le Pen’s hard-right National Rally (RN) party to secure between 185 and 215 seats, indicating that she could still fall short of the halfway mark.  

While they expect the left-leaning New Popular Front to win between 168 and 198 – the second biggest. Whereas, Macron’s “Ensemble” party is expected to secure between 115 and 145. 

Meanwhile, chaos, protests, and large-scale violence in France come less than three weeks ahead of the Olympics – to be hosted in Paris.

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