French can­di­dates boost se­cu­rity ahead of tense vote

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - WORLD NEWS -

PARIS — A feel-good Paris con­cert, a meet­ing with Mus­lim lead­ers and a blowout rally in Mar­seille — France’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are blan­ket­ing the coun­try Wed­nes­day with cam­paign events to try to in­spire un­de­cided vot­ers just four days be­fore a nail-bit­ing elec­tion.

Crowds danced on a Paris plaza as So­cial­ist pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Benoit Ha­mon held what is seen as a last-chance rally and con­cert. Ha­mon is polling a dis­tant fifth place ahead of Sun­day’s first-round elec­tion and has lit­tle chance of reach­ing the de­ci­sive May 7 runoff — a fail­ure that could crush his party.

French far-right pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Marine Le Pen, who has dom­i­nated the cam­paign with her anti-im­mi­gra­tion, anti-EU pro­pos­als, is ap­peal­ing to her elec­toral base in hopes of main­tain­ing a shot at the runoff.

She as­sailed re­cent gov­ern­ments for fail­ing to stop ex­trem­ist at­tacks in re­cent years and warned on BFM tele­vi­sion that “we are all tar­gets. All the French.”

The can­di­dates have in­creased se­cu­rity in re­cent days. Au­thor­i­ties an­nounced Tues­day that they had ar­rested two Is­lamic rad­i­cals sus­pected of plot­ting a pos­si­ble at­tack around the vote.

In­de­pen­dent cen­trist can­di­date Em­manuel Macron reached out to the French Mus­lim com­mu­nity Wed­nes­day, say­ing it’s fight­ing on a “com­mon front” along­side the state against Is­lamic ex­trem­ism.

Macron met with the head of lead­ing French Mus­lim group CFCM, Anouar Kbibech. In a state­ment af­ter­ward, Macron in­sisted on the im­por­tance of re­spect­ing France’s sec­u­lar tra­di­tions but said they shouldn’t be used to tar­get Mus­lims. Some Mus­lims feel un­fairly tar­geted by French laws ban­ning head­scarves in schools and full-face veils in pub­lic.

Also Wed­nes­day, the Grand Mosque of Lyon is­sued an ap­peal urg­ing Mus­lims to cast bal­lots in­stead of iso­lat­ing them­selves, “so that all the chil­dren of France, re­gard­less of their skin colour, their ori­gins or their re­li­gion, are fully in­volved in the fu­ture of their coun­try.”

Le Pen also de­fended her de­ci­sion to force na­tional news net­work TF1 to take down the Euro­pean flag dur­ing an in­ter­view Tues­day night.

She said Wed­nes­day that “I am a can­di­date in the elec­tion for the French repub­lic” and that Europe is act­ing like France’s “en­emy.”

Ac­cus­ing the EU of tak­ing away France’s sovereignty and hurt­ing its econ­omy, she wants to pull France out of the EU and the euro — which would dev­as­tate the bloc and badly dis­rupt fi­nan­cial mar­kets.


In­de­pen­dent cen­trist can­di­date Em­manuel Macron de­liv­ers his speech dur­ing a meet­ing in Nantes, western France, Wed­nes­day. Polls sug­gest Macron has a good chance of com­ing out on top of Sun­day’s first round and reach­ing the May 7 runoff.

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