More than 50 candidates and campaigners physically assaulted ahead of French elections

French authorities have recorded more than 50 physical assaults on candidates and campaigners on the campaign trail, the country’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Friday as concerns mount about political violence ahead of France’s high-stakes parliamentary elections.

“This campaign is short, less than three weeks. However, we have counted 51 candidates, deputies, or campaigners who have been physically assaulted. I am not counting verbal aggressions here,” Darmanin told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

The attacks have ranged from the less severe to “extremely serious,” Darmanin said, adding that some candidates have been hospitalised for their injuries.

Roughly thirty or so people have been taken in for questioning in relation to the attacks, Darmanin added.

France has been grappling with high tensions in the run-up to this Sunday’s elections. An additional 30,000 police have been laid on to ensure that neither the far-left nor the far-right succeed in “creating disorder,” Darmanin said earlier this week.

Politicians have repeatedly warned that a far-right victory could provoke huge protests in the streets, with French 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.

French government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot and her team came under attack while canvassing on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, National Rally (RN) 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.

The terror threat in the country “remains extremely strong,” the interior minister warned on Friday, adding that several arrests had recently taken place in two separate places. Although the two incidents “could qualify as terrorist” incidents, they need to be formally classified as such by the national anti-terrorist prosecutor, Darmanin added.

RN, the party of far-right doyenne Marine Le Pen, led the first round of France’s parliamentary elections last 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.

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