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Far-right candidate assaulted during French election campaign

By Thomson Reuters Jun 21, 2024 | 4:44 AM

PARIS (Reuters) – Black-clad attackers have beaten up a far-right candidate on the campaign trail ahead of France’s snap parliamentary election, police said, echoing violence against politicians in Germany and elsewhere in Europe as the political atmosphere coarsens.

Herve Breuil, a candidate for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party, was assaulted as he campaigned in the industrial town of Saint Etienne, near Lyon, in central France.

His assailants wore black and masked their faces, spokespeople for the police and local authority said. He was hospitalised following the assault but was due to be released soon, they added.

Attacks against political figures — the majority of them mayors and local councillors — have risen steadily in France.

There were 2,387 physical and verbal attacks in the first nine months of 2023, compared to 2,265 for the whole of 2022, when incidents rose by a third compared to 2021, the latest interior ministry data shows.

Le Pen blamed what she called “far-left extremists” for the attack against Breuil.

“An election campaign in a democracy cannot be allowed to have such acts of extreme violence carried out by a far left which is prepared to do anything to sow chaos,” said Le Pen on social media platform X.

Police have opened an investigation.

The political atmospheres in France and Germany have been hardened by the trading of barbs often carried via social media, and the divisions and rhetoric of populist politics.

President Emmanuel Macron called for the snap election after his party was trounced by the RN in European elections.

The RN leads in polls ahead of the ahead of the left-wing New Popular Front coalition vote. Voting takes place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Richard Lough and Sharon Singleton)