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Tens of Thousands Protest Against Far-Right in Paris Amid Political Turmoil

Paris, June 15, 2024, The Europe Today: Approximately 75,000 people turned out in Paris on Saturday to protest against far-right parties, with around 150 similar rallies held across France. Nationwide, police reported a total of 250,000 protesters, falling short of the 300,000 to 500,000 anticipated before the demonstrations.

The protests were organized by anti-racism groups, labor unions, and left-wing politicians and their supporters. Participants voiced their concerns over the growing influence of far-right ideologies in the country.

“To me, the extreme right is a danger because it supports an ideology based on the fear of the other, whereas we are all French citizens despite our differences,” a 16-year-old protester of French and Algerian descent told the AP news agency. She expressed particular concern about the rise of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, fearing potential policies that could ban the hijab under the guise of women’s liberty. “I am a woman and I should be able to decide what I want to wear,” she said.

The political unrest in France has been exacerbated by the recent European Parliament election, in which the RN secured over 31% of the votes, more than double that of the centrist bloc favored by President Emmanuel Macron. In response, Macron has called for a snap parliamentary election, set for June 30 and July 7, urging “all those who say no to extremism” to support him.

However, fears are mounting that France could see its first far-right government. Eric Ciotti, leader of the center-right Les Republicans, has indicated openness to a coalition with the RN and another far-right party, Reconquête (Reconquest). This stance has sparked internal rebellion within his party.

Marine Le Pen, who handed leadership of the RN to Jordan Bardella in 2022, recently promised a “national unity government” should her party come to power. At the Paris rally, hard-left CGT union leader Sophie Binet voiced grave concerns about Bardella’s potential rise to prime minister. “We want to prevent this disaster,” she stated at the Place de La Republique.

On Friday, France’s left-wing parties formed an alliance named the “New Popular Front” despite their differences on the Gaza conflict. Leftist leader Raphaël Glucksmann emphasized the importance of preventing an RN victory. “The only thing that matters to me is that the [RN] don’t win and won’t govern,” he told Inter radio. “We can’t leave France to the Le Pen family.”

A Saturday opinion poll suggested that the RN could secure 33% in the first round of the upcoming vote, with the New Popular Front at 25%, and Macron’s centrist camp at 20%.

The protests highlight the deep divisions and heightened political tensions in France as the nation approaches a critical electoral juncture.