Fears mount over election-linked violence in France after government spokesperson attacked on campaign trail

Concerns are growing about political violence ahead of high-stakes parliamentary elections in France after a series of lawmakers were attacked on the campaign trail this week.

French government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot and her team came under attack while canvassing on Wednesday night, the latest in a string of violent incidents involving French lawmakers contesting Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Her team isn’t the only one. National Rally politician Marie Dauchy, who is running in the southeastern constituency of Savoie, opted to suspend her campaign after she said was physically assaulted while campaigning at a market.

In Cherbourg, a center-right candidate from The Republicans party, Nicolas Conquer, made a formal complaint after he claimed he was assaulted by left-wing campaigners on Monday.

Politicians have repeatedly warned that a far-right victory could provoke huge protests in the streets with President Emmanuel Macron going so far as to say “civil war” may break out if the extreme left or right wins by a large margin in Sunday’s runoff vote.

Thevenot, a candidate for reelection from Macron’s Renaissance party, was in her constituency in the Parisian suburbs with members of her team when the group came under attack after attempting to stop a group of youths from defacing posters.

Providing an account of the incident to French newspaper Le Parisien, the minister said that although she was not harmed in the attack, her deputy and a member of her campaign team were taken to a hospital after sustaining injuries.

Four people have been taken in for questioning regarding the incident, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told French television station France 2 on Thursday morning.

Thevenot has vowed to continue campaigning, saying in a post on X on Thursday that “violence is never the answer.”

Politicians from across the political divide came out quickly to condemn the attack and send a strong warning regarding election-related violence.

Jordan Bardella, the leader of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, sent his “complete support” to Thevenot following the attack, calling for “calm and appeasement.”

“For several weeks now, we have seen a multiplication of violence in the streets linked to the electoral campaign,” Bardella told CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV on Wednesday evening.

Acknowledging that violence has been linked to both the far-right and far-left camps, Bardella vowed, if appointed, to be a prime minister who “re-establishes order” in France.

Incumbent Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is fighting to retain his seat, also denounced the attack on Wednesday, saying “violence and intimidation have no place” in France’s democracy.

An additional 30,000 police officers and gendarmes will be deployed across France on Sunday night in the event of public disorder, Darmanin said Thursday.

Darmanin said the beefed-up policing would ensure that neither the far right or far left “profit from the results” and succeed in inciting violence.

RN, the party of far-right doyenne Marine Le Pen, led the first round of France’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, taking it closer to the gates of power than ever before.

After an unusually high turnout, the RN bloc clinched 33.15% of the vote, while the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) coalition came second with 27.99% and Macron’s Ensemble alliance slumped to a dismal third with 20.76%, according to final results published by the Interior Ministry on Monday.

While the RN appears on track to win the most seats in the National Assembly, it may fall short of the 289 seats required for an absolute majority, suggesting France may be heading for a hung parliament and more political uncertainty.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the wrong location for where the candidate made the complaint. It was Cherbourg.

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