Neither Macron, nor Le Pen: France erupts in protests against top presidential candidates ahead of elections

Updated: Apr 17, 2022, 02:59 PM(IST)

Thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators and environmental activists marched across France on Saturday.

Some in an attempt to unite opponents of presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in order to prevent her from winning the April 24 runoff election against incumbent Emmanuel Macron, and others to protest against the environmental programmes put forward by France's remaining presidential candidates.

Let's take a look:


Collapse of democracy?

Thousands of people gathered in central Paris, singing anti-fascist chants and warning of democratic upheaval if Le Pen won. On one banner, it said: "Against the far-right. For justice and equality, not Le Pen at the Elysee," referring to the official house of the French president

"If the far-right is in power we will see a major collapse of the democratic, anti-racism and progressive camps," said Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racism, which organised the protests alongside dozens of other rights groups, unions, and associations.

"People need to realise that despite their anger towards Emmanuel Macron and his policies, there is no equivalence between a liberal, conservative candidate and a far-right candidate."


Don't yell at them! Defeat them!

Despite police warnings of possible violence as demonstrators gathered in more than 30 towns, the protests concluded peacefully.

In opinion polls, Macron, who staged a rally in Marseille to persuade left-wing people to vote for him on April 24, is marginally ahead.

"The far-right is a risk to our country," he told supporters. "Don't yell at them! Defeat them! "he stated.


The establishment is worried

Le Pen, who is anti-immigration and eurosceptic, has worked to soften her image and that of her National Rally party in recent years. Opponents, notably Macron, have accused Le Pen's campaign of being full of lies and false promises, which she has denied.

Le Pen slammed the planned protests as undemocratic while speaking to reporters during a campaign trip in southern France.

She stated, "The establishment is worried." 

"That people are protesting against election results is deeply undemocratic. I say to all these people just go and vote. It's as simple as that."


Caught between a rock and a hard place

Climate activists simultaneously forced the closure of a major square in central Paris to protest the leading presidential candidates' environmental policies.

On its website, the Extinction Rebellion (XR) stated that it intended to block a key Parisian area in order to interrupt the electoral cycle and its "business as usual" attitude.

While the cost of living is the most prominent election subject, energy policies are strongly tied to it, and incumbent Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen have proposed quite different policies in the renewables sector.

"We are blocking this Paris square to rebel against alternatives that we don't have. This election leaves us with no choice between a far-right candidate with repugnant ideas ... and a candidate who during five years cast the ecology issue aside and lied," said one protestor to Reuters.


Macron vs Le Pen

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Paris' 9th district, carrying anti-candidate banners, chanting slogans like "their inaction leads to our rebellion," and lying on the ground in protest.

Polls show the liberal president is marginally ahead of his far-right competitor eight days before a runoff to determine who will rule the European Union's second-largest economy for the next five years, but the race is expected to be close.


Read in App