Pro­tect­ing the vote

France boosts se­cu­rity af­ter at­tack casts shadow on elec­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Au­to­matic weapon

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.

KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU / ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

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