French elec­tion ral­lies bring un­rest

Cape Breton Post - - News | World - BY ELAINE GANLEY AND SYLVIE COR­BET

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and cen­trist Em­manuel Macron hunted work­ing class votes Mon­day, en­ter­ing the fi­nal week of an in­creas­ingly nasty cam­paign for pres­i­dent. Thou­sands across France cel­e­brated May Day by show­ing their top con­cerns are jobs and the kind of coun­try the next leader will give them.

Amid the hol­i­day marches, masked demon­stra­tors threw fire­bombs at po­lice in Paris be­fore be­ing dis­persed by tear gas. Four of­fi­cers were in­jured, with one se­ri­ously burned in the face, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Matthias Fekl said.

While vi­o­lence from fringe groups are a stan­dard pres­ence in French demon­stra­tions, at least some of those who mixed in the union-or­ga­nized march came with an an­gry mes­sage against both can­di­dates.

“Not one or the other; in­stead it’s the peo­ple’s self-de­fence” read one sign.

“Macron equals Louis XVI, Le Pen equals Le Pen,” read another, a ref­er­ence to Marine Le Pen’s fa­ther, Jean-Marie, the co-founder of the anti-im­mi­gra­tion Na­tional Front party known for his ex­trem­ist views.

Sun­day’s runoff elec­tion is be­ing watched closely by other Euro­pean gov­ern­ments and fi­nan­cial mar­kets to see if the French hand power to the pop­ulist Le Pen.

Main­stream par­ties on the left and right failed to form a bloc against her as they did in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen was trounced by Jac­ques Chirac.

Ad­dress­ing thou­sands at a venue out­side Paris, Marine Le Pen skew­ered Macron, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker, as a pup­pet of fi­nanciers and Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ists, a lap­dog of So­cial­ist Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande and a mem­ber of the “caviar left.” His pro-busi­ness poli­cies, she warned, would leave French work­ers hun­gry.

Cheers of “Marine Pres­i­dent!” and anti-im­mi­grant chants rose to the rafters.

Whether she wanted it or not, Le Pen got an en­dorse­ment from her fa­ther, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who co-founded the Na­tional Front party she now leads. The se­nior Le Pen has of­ten been de­cried as a ractst; his daugh­ter ejected him from the party in 2015 as part of her bid to make the Na­tional Front more po­lit­i­cally ac­cept­able.

“She is not Joan of Arc, but she ac­cepts the same mis­sion ... France,” Jean-Marie Le Pen said at his tra­di­tional May Day rally.

He de­nounced the fron­trun­ning Macron as a “masked So­cial­ist” backed by the highly un­pop­u­lar Hol­lande, who did not seek a sec­ond term. Macron once served as Hol­lande’s econ­omy min­is­ter.

Re­fer­ring to France’s stag­nant econ­omy and it job­less rate of about 10 per cent, the elder Le Pen said of Macron: “He wants to dy­namize the econ­omy, but he is among those who dy­na­mited it.”

The 39-year-old Macron re­turned the in­sults at a Paris rally in front of thou­sands of sup­port­ers.

He crit­i­cized Marine Le Pen’s “rude man­ners” and called her “the heir” — a ref­er­ence to her fa­ther, who has been con­victed of racism and anti-Semitism.

“Don’t boo her, fight her! Go and con­vince (oth­ers), make her lose next Sun­day,” he told the crowd.

AP PHOTO

French in­de­pen­dent cen­trist pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Em­manuel Macron speaks to his sup­port­ers dur­ing a cam­paign rally in Paris, France, Mon­day.

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