VIDEO: French Protesters march in Paris ahead of ‘political masquerade’ presidential election
Hundreds of people in the French capital have protested against the policies presented by the candidates who lead voting polls in the April 23 presidential election, criticizing the vote as a “political masquerade.”
The demonstration, which is still under way in central Paris, was organized by several French unions and student groups on Saturday, on the eve of the first round of the election.
Clashes erupted between police and protesters. Tear gas, smoke grenades and flares were used to disperse the demonstrators, who say people “must impose their (candidates’) agenda”, namely curbing unemployment and boosting economy, regardless of the outcome of the vote.
Voters also consider security as a serious concern in the wake of terrorist attacks in the country over the past few years, including Thursday’s attack by a Daesh terrorist who shot dead a police officer in Paris before being slain by security forces.
The French capital will also witness tight security to foil any potential terrorist threat against the polling stations on Sunday.
Incumbent President Francois Hollande, who is not re-running for office, has ordered extra 50,000 police forces to ensure security of the 67,000 polling stations across the country.
The race for the presidency features Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Benoit Hamon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and Marine Le Pen. The two candidates with the most votes in the first round of the election will compete in the runoff, which has already been scheduled for May 7 in anticipation of an inconclusive first round.
A survey published on Wednesday showed that Macron was leading on 23 percent to Le Pen’s 22.5 percent.
Le Pen, 48, has caused the most controversy with her extremist, far-right policies. She proposes France’s exit from the European Union and voices concerns about security and immigration. She has vowed to place an immediate moratorium on all kinds of immigration as soon as she takes office as president, if she does.
Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front party, has described government efforts to maintain law and order as “inept” and voiced security concerns over more terrorist attacks in the future.
Macron, a 39-year-old independent centrist, is the former economy minister in the Socialist government and one-time investment banker who pledges an “open, confident, winning France” in contrast with his far-right and far-left rivals.
The upcoming election is considered by some analysts as one of the most unpredictable ones in decades.