France: Thousands of French Demonstrate to Show Their Rejection of Marine Le Pen’s Far Right | International
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Twenty years after the commotion and national mobilization that led to the passage to the second round of the 2002 French presidential elections of the National Front (FN) candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, France has again mobilized this Saturday against the extreme right. Thousands of people demonstrated in dozens of cities across the country under the same slogan: “No to the extreme right of Marine Le Pen”, the daughter of the founder of the FN and, for the second consecutive time, a finalist for the Elysee.
But the cry is no longer so unanimous. It doesn’t sound that loud. The march in Paris was well attended. But not massive. Some 9,200 people paraded to the Plaza de la República in the capital, according to the Ministry of the Interior. In total, nationwide, there were almost 23,000, according to official figures. The organizers for their part claimed some 40,000 demonstrators in Paris and 150,000 throughout France. Far, very far, in any case, from the demonstration between the two rounds of 2002, when 1.3 million people came out throughout France to protest against the classification of Le Pen Sr., 400,000 in Paris, France Info station recalled. The weariness of many French people, many of them young people who have known nothing but an extreme right that is part of the national political landscape, is becoming more evident than ever and endangering, as it had not done before, the republican front that Over the last two decades, it has prevented, time and time again, the FN, now the National Regroupment party, from gaining power.
It is an electorate that seeks the causes of a national and collective failure. And that, at least in part, revolts against the idea that the only alternative to having a Le Pen president in a week is to vote for her rival and outgoing president, the centrist Emmanuel Macron, whom they consider co-responsible for the situation that it has so many jaded citizens. Proof of this weariness is that the collective cry this Saturday was to prevent Le Pen from passing, but there was no explicit call to vote for Macron, as some of his defeated rivals have done, including the socialist Anne Hidalgo, the environmentalist Yannick Jadot or the conservative Valérie Pécrese. Not so the leader of France Insumisa, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was third in voting intention and whose 7.7 million votes are now courting the finalists.
At the same time that the marches were taking place across the country, Macron was giving a rally in Marseille, one of Mélenchon’s strongholds. In an open nod to the left-wing and young voters that he seeks to attract to himself next Sunday, and who place ecology among their main concerns (and among the main shortcomings of the last five years), the outgoing president promised that, if re-elected, his prime minister will be “directly in charge of ecological planning” and will have two “strong ministers”, one for “energy planning” and the other for “territorial ecological planning”. The goal, he asserted, is to make France the “first great nation to come out of gas, oil and coal.” In Paris, in addition to the demonstration that led to the Place de la République, the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion occupied a part of the center of the capital where it intends to stay over the Easter weekend to discuss the “climate emergency”.
The abstention of disenchanted voters, in the current electoral context, is a danger that analysts never tire of pointing out, but which no longer frightens those who see Macron and Le Pen as “two sides of the same coin”.
It certainly didn’t scare Alissa, a painter from Rouen who traveled to Paris on Saturday to take part in the march against Le Pen. A voter for populist left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Alissa will stay home on Sunday. “Abstaining is also stopping Le Pen”, she justified her decision while waving a Popular Union flag, the name under which Mélenchon attended these elections. “We are not responsible for voting for Le Pen, abstaining is also making a republican front,” he insisted, who considers that, during the first five years of his term, “Macron has paved the way for fascism.”
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Listening to her, Pierre Luzy, a 69-year-old retired early childhood educator, threw his hands in his head. Twenty years ago he already went out to protest against Le Pen Sr. and, as then he had to vote for Jacques Chirac, now he will do it for Macron to prevent the victory of Le Pen’s daughter. Although he is on the left. “Stopping Marine Le Pen is voting against her, not abstaining from her. To refrain is to let do”, he warned. Quickly, a circle of heated discussion was formed between abstentionist Melenchonists – up to 56% of the 7.7 million Mélenchon voters in the first round could not vote next Sunday, according to the polls – and demonstrators of other adhesions or political convictions. who also concentrated this Saturday against the extreme right. Flags of the Socialist Party, environmentalists, trade unions, NGOs waved in the parade… The demonstration had been called by several dozen organizations that called to “reject Marine Le Pen” to “prevent the arrival of a destructive society project of the rule of law, of the social and solidary democratic republic” that is France, according to a joint statement. The entourage was joined by various groups, including students, who this week staged a bull run at the headquarters of the Sorbonne university in Paris to show their rejection of the two candidates who have gone to the second round: “Neither Le Pen nor Macron ”. Somewhat further away, at the tail of the demonstration, surrounded by a strong police force, a few dozen yellow vests also marched in an “anti-Macron front”.
“The republican front is exhausted,” lamented Manuel and Saadia, two socialist militants who, like 20 years ago, will vote next Sunday not out of conviction, but to stop Le Pen. “The method fails, because this is the third time we have to vote to stop the FN,” they lamented. A “failure” that, according to Saadia, is partly the responsibility of a Macron who has not fulfilled his 2017 promise to stop the rise of the extreme right — others in the demonstration directly accused him of having promoted it during his mandate for electoral interest — , but has also “opened the door to the extreme left”. The socialist militants, who hope that both their party and the conservative Republicans, also devastated in the first round, will manage to come back in the June legislative elections, acknowledge part of the responsibility of the formations that for decades backbone France and that they consider “have not known how to approach voters and listen to their needs”
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