French candidates boost security ahead of tense vote

Two Islamic radicals suspected of plotting a possible attack around the vote were arrested yesterday, said Police

By: AP | Paris | Published: April 20, 2017 12:07 am
France, France terror attack, France bomb, France arrests two, France presidential polls, presidential polls terror attack, World news, Indian Express French police and members of special Police units RAID conduct an investigation after two Frenchmen were arrested in Marseille, France, April 18, 2017 for planning to carry out an “imminent and violent attack” ahead of the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, France’s interior minister said.   REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

A feel-good Paris concert, a meeting with Muslim leaders and a blowout rally in Marseille –France’s presidential candidates are blanketing the country today with campaign events to try to inspire undecided voters just four days before a nail-biting election.

Crowds danced on a Paris plaza as Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon held what is seen as a last-chance rally and concert. Hamon is polling a distant fifth place ahead of Sunday’s first-round election and has little chance of reaching the decisive May 7 runoff — a failure that could crush his party.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who has dominated the campaign with her anti-immigration, anti-EU proposals, is appealing to her electoral base in hopes of maintaining a shot at the runoff.

She assailed recent governments for failing to stop extremist attacks in recent years and warned on BFM television that “we are all targets. All the French.”

The candidates have increased security in recent days. Authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested two Islamic radicals suspected of plotting a possible attack around the vote.

Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron reached out to the French Muslim community today, saying it’s fighting on a “common front” alongside the state against Islamic extremism.

Macron met with the head of leading French Muslim group CFCM, Anouar Kbibech. In a statement afterward, Macron insisted on the importance of respecting France’s secular traditions but said they shouldn’t be used to target Muslims.

Some Muslims feel unfairly targeted by French laws banning headscarves in schools and full-face veils in public.

Also today, the Grand Mosque of Lyon issued an appeal urging Muslims to cast ballots instead of isolating themselves, “so that all the children of France, regardless of their skin color, their origins or their religion, are fully involved in the future of their country.”

Le Pen also defended her decision to force national news network TF1 to take down the European flag during an interview last night.

She said today that “I am a candidate in the election for the French republic” and that Europe is acting like France’s “enemy.”

Accusing the EU of taking away France’s sovereignty and hurting its economy, she wants to pull France out of the EU and the euro — which would devastate the bloc and badly disrupt financial markets.

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