France's May Day protests turn into political battlefield ahead of EU elections

France's May Day protests turn into political battlefield ahead of EU elections

The usual chants for higher salaries and equal pay echoed across the streets of Paris this Wednesday during the traditional May Day labour rights march.

Ten of thousands of protestors took to the streets of the French capital against a backdrop of new demands such as peace in Gaza and against the upcoming Paris Olympic Games.

But with less than six weeks left before the European elections on 9 June, the event turned into a highly political one.

Many left-wing candidates didn't miss the opportunity to present their campaign, all vying for attention.

Representing the Communist party for the EU elections, Léon Deffontaine, the 28-year-old candidate is focusing his campaign on energy bills -- a topic that catalysed numerous protests in France and Europe since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"The first measure I want to put in place is to take France out of the European electricity market to reduce energy bills. Today, we're paying far more than the price we pay to produce electricity," he told Euronews.

Others emphasised the importance of protesting the rise of the far-right, currently leading the polls, represented by Jordan Bardella of the Rassemblement National party (RN).

"May 1st is also an opportunity to remember that we must always fight against these anti-democratic, anti-republican parties that unfortunately swarm our country," said Marie Toussaint, leader of the Green Party for the 9 June elections.

According to a poll by IPSOS ordered by Euronews, Macron's centrist alliance Renaissance is lagging by 15 points behind Bardella's party.

Meanwhile, in the southwestern city of Perpignan, Jordan Bardella gathered more than 2,000 people to announce his party's first 35 candidates for the elections.

These include candidates such as Fabrice Leggeri, ex-boss of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

End of April, two NGOs filed a civil complaint against Leggeri accusing him of being complicit in crimes against humanity for enabling 'pushback' of boats full of illegal migrants between 2015 and 2022.

Bardella's move was highly criticised by left-wing parties, claiming the far-right politician was taking away the attention from worker's issues.

"Taking advantage of May 1st to launch a campaign shows that he couldn't care less about French workers," reacted Léon Deffontaines, the Communist candidate.

In Saint-Etienne (near Lyon), the head of the socialist party, Raphaël Glucksmann, was prevented from joining the march.

Multiple protesters threw paint and eggs at the EU election candidate, currently third in the polls after the far-right and Marcon's centrist alliance.

In total, about 121,000 people marched across France according to the Ministry of the Interior, while the main labour union CGT claimed “more than 210,000” participated in the marches in the country.