Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mob Battle Paris Police; Protests across France as le Pen Defeats Left

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mob Battle Paris Police; Protests across France as le Pen Defeats Left

Article excerpt


THOUSANDS of protesters fought riot police in Paris today after one of the most sensational election results of recent times.

France was convulsed when extreme Right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen won enough votes to take on Jacques Chirac in the race to become president of France.

Defeated socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin said the success of Le Pen, who has campaigned on antiimmigration policies, had come "like a bolt of thunder".

Mr Jospin immediately resigned from "office and political life".

President Chirac attempted to calm the nation in a televised address calling on the French to "unite for the love of France, to defend the very idea of France, to stand up for national and human values and our country's role in Europe and in the world".

The result led to the collapse of the Left in France which polled 15 million votes in 1997 to win the last general election. A record 29 per cent of voters abstained in the first round of voting yesterday.

Demonstrators began to gather in the Place de la Republique in Paris and in Strasbourg, Toulouse, Grenoble and towns and cities across France. Many carried signs reading "I am ashamed" or "down with fascism".

For most of the night, lines of officers used batons and shields to keep a highly-volatile crowd of at least 10,000 mainly Left- wing protesters under control in Paris.

But just before dawn a hardcore of more than 3,000 broke loose and went on the rampage. As rocks rained down on police lines, protesters overturned barricades in clashes near the Place de la Concorde.

A mob of several hundred broke away and ran amok on a Left Bank avenue, smashing bus stops and shop and restaurant windows.

Police were seen taking dozens of protesters into custody.

The demonstrations began peacefully with an estimated 10,000 young people gathering at the Place de la Bastille in central Paris.

Several thousand broke away, apparently marching toward the presidential palace, but were stopped at the Place de la Concorde. The restaurant of the famed Maxim's restaurant was smashed.

Demonstrators chanted "Left, Right - we are all against Le Pen," and "first, second, third generation - we are all immigrants!"

Some carried Jospin campaign signs or wore Communist party stickers on their jackets.

The reaction was also strong in today's French newspapers.

"Non" screamed Left-leaning daily Liberation in a single-word front-page headline above a photograph of Le Pen. "The French political system, tottering for years, has imploded," it said.

"The earthquake," commented Right-leaning Le Figaro.

Voters now have two weeks to organise cross-party support for Chirac in an attempt to block a presidential victory for the extreme-Right.

The first estimates showed that Chirac had won 19. …

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