Thousands take to streets in France against assertive far right

Published June 16, 2024
Paris: Demonstrators take part in an anti far-right rally on Saturday after the French president called legisla­tive elections following far-right parties’ significant gains in European Parliament elections last week.—AFP
Paris: Demonstrators take part in an anti far-right rally on Saturday after the French president called legisla­tive elections following far-right parties’ significant gains in European Parliament elections last week.—AFP

PARIS: Thousands marched in Paris and cities across France on Saturday to protest against the far-right National Rally (RN) ahead of upcoming elections to the French parliament.

Following the RN’s surge in last Sunday’s European elections, police said 350,000 people were expected to march and 21,000 officers had been mobilised after labour unions, student groups and rights groups called for rallies to oppose the anti-immigration, eurosceptic party.

At least 150 marches were expected in cities including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Lille. In Paris, where police said 75,000 people turned out, a march set off at 1200 GMT from Place de La Republique, in the east, going through the Bastille square to Nation.

According to the CGT union, cited by BFM TV, 250,000 marched in Paris and 640,000 in total across the country. Police said they had arrested seven people in Paris. The police said there had been 217,000 demonstrators across France.

Speaking at Place de La Republique, hard-left CGT union leader Sophie Binet told reporters: “We are marching because we are extremely worried that (the RN’s head) Jordan Bardella could become the next Prime Minister … We want to prevent this disaster.”

Carol-Ann Juste, a 22 year-old student taking part in the Paris march, said it was the first time she had taken part in a protest.

Hollande surprise candidate

Former French Socialist president Francois Hollande on Saturday said he is to stand again for parliament in legislative elections — a political comeback that took even his allies on the left by surprise.

Hollande, France’s president from 2012-2017, left office with record levels of unpopularity and is detested by some within the radical left while even the Socialist leadership regard him with suspicion. But he has had a relatively high media profile in the weeks leading up to President Emmanuel Macron’s dramatic calling of snap elections to combat the rise of the far right.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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