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French elections: Thousands gather in Paris to protest far-right surge

French opposition parties and associations are trying to block a landslide victory for Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally in next Sunday's legislative election
French opposition parties and associations are trying to block a landslide victory for Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally in next Sunday's legislative election Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Unions, independent media, citizen organisations organised a rally in Paris on Wednesday night to support the left-wing bloc and denounce the rise of the far-right in the upcoming second round of parliamentary elections.

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Thousands gathered on Wednesday in Paris to protest the results of the first round of the French legislative elections after the far-right National Rally party secured the most votes.

Multiple unions, independent media and citizens' organisations were behind the demonstration calling on voters to block the rise of the far right for the second round of the elections scheduled for Sunday.

Many present fear a far-right victory could curtail civil liberties due to the National Rally’s history of xenophobia and antisemitism.

"If tomorrow the far right wins, I don't know what will become of my fellow foreign students, binationals who will be stigmatised, LGBTQ people, people of colour, what will become of women, because the far right is the enemy of all these people," said Salomé Hocquard, Vice-President of the National Union of Students of France (UNEF), one of the organisers of the protest.

A Republican Front weaker than in previous decades

To prevent the National Rally from obtaining a 289-seat majority, the left-wing coalition known as the New Popular Front (NFP) and French President Emmanuel Macron's party Ensemble said it would withdraw its candidates in districts where they finished third to support other stronger candidates opposed to the National Rally (RN) in next Sunday's vote.

This tactic, known as the Front Républicain (the Republican Front), worked in the past when the far right was considered a political outcast.

There is a chance that if voters mobilise massively, they could block the National Rally from winning the absolute majority in Parliament next Sunday. But voter fatigue is a major hurdle.

A person hods a placard reading "We defeated fascism in 1944, we can do it again in 2024" during a gathering at Republique plaza in a protest against the far-right
A person hods a placard reading "We defeated fascism in 1944, we can do it again in 2024" during a gathering at Republique plaza in a protest against the far-rightThomas Padilla/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

"I understand people are fed up. We're all tired of voting against the far-right at every election, but this one is not like the others because the far-right is at the gates of power and is capable of winning an absolute majority," said Laïla Idtaleb, a representative of The Human Rights League of France (LDH).

Young people are likely to abstain from voting while the older generation with higher incomes are most likely to vote.

Alejandro, 23, a content creator based in Paris said he will not be voting in any election.

"I won't vote because whether it's the far-right or the left, nothing is going to change. They're trying to create a divide to separate us," he told Euronews.

Not everyone present at the demonstration agreed with the general message. Rémi, 61, came to the demonstration out of curiosity.

He's a staunch National Rally supporter and told Euronews he is proud that he voted for a far-right candidate in the first round.

"Voting for a far-right party is a vote that shows the general discontent of the French, who can no longer live in safety due to the influx of migrants," he said.

"This rally doesn't at all reflect the state of mind of the French. It's just a few people who got together, but the people in the heart of France, in the countryside, think differently. And they’re far more numerous than what's going on here," he explained before debating with a young left-wing student.

The National Rally came out on top in the 2024 European elections in more than 32,000 out of 35,000 French municipalities, while big cities like Paris and Lyon tend to vote for left-wing candidates.

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