Protecting the vote
France boosts security after attack casts shadow on election
PARIS — France began picking itself up on Friday from another shooting claimed by the Islamic State group, with President Francois Hollande calling together the government’s security council while his would-be successors in the presidential election campaign tread carefully heading into the weekend vote.
One of the key questions was if, and how, the attack that killed one police officer and wounded three other people might impact voting intentions.
The risk for the main candidates was that misjudging the public mood, making an illperceived gesture or comment, could damage their chances.
With polling just two days away, and campaigning banned from Friday at midnight, they would have no time to recover before polls open on Sunday.
Candidates canceled or rescheduled final campaign events ahead of Sunday’s first-round vote in the twostage election.
On the iconic Champs Elysees in the heart of Paris, municipal workers in white hygiene suits were out before dawn on Friday to wash down the sidewalk where the assault took place — a scene now depressingly familiar after multiple attacks that have killed more than 230 people in France in little over two years.
Delivery trucks did their early morning rounds; everything would have seemed nor- mal were it not for the row of TV trucks parked along the boulevard that is a must-visit for tourists.
Hollande’s defense and security council meeting was part of government efforts to protect Sunday’s vote, taking place under already heightened security, with more than 50,000 police officers and soldiers mobilized, and a state of emergency in place since 2015.
The attacker emerged from a car and used an automatic weapon to shoot at officers outside a department store at the center of the Champs-Elysees, anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said. Police shot and killed the gunman.
One officer was killed and two seriously wounded. A female foreign tourist also was wounded, Molins said.
The IS group’s claim of responsibility just a few hours after the attack came unusually swiftly.
In a statement, IS gave a pseudonym for the shooter, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, indicating he was Belgian or had lived in Belgium.
Presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that France should not yield to fear and candidates in the election should avoid one-upmanship.
Conservative contender Francois Fillon, said he was canceling his planned campaign stops on Friday.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who campaigns against immigration, took to Twitter to offer her sympathy for law enforcement officers “once again targeted”.
The two top finishers in Sunday’s election will advance to a runoff on May 7.
Police seal off the Champs Elysees in Paris after Thursday’s shooting in which one officer was killed and two others were wounded, along with a tourist. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.