French Election Divides Unions on Day of Labor Demonstrations


Philippe Martinez, the head of the General Confederation of Labor, one of France’s biggest unions, said in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien on Sunday that while his and other unions agreed on opposing the National Front, “we are not in 2002 anymore.”

“We believe that everybody should learn the lessons of 2002, of the disappointments, of the unkept promises, of unemployment, of social distress, of austerity policies,” he said. “How is it that, 15 years later, we are in the same situation?”

Mr. Martinez, who has called for votes against Ms. Le Pen but stopped short of endorsing Mr. Macron, reflected a view held by many on the French left who oppose the National Front but believe the economic policies defended by Mr. Macron — who favors free trade and wants to loosen labor regulations — have fueled the National Front’s success.

Those voters, many of whom supported the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, do not want their votes for Mr. Macron to be construed as support for his platform. The latest polls have shown an increase in the number of voters who say they plan to abstain in the second round after voting for Mr. Mélenchon in the first.


Macron supporters before a campaign rally in Paris on Monday. The latest polls predict that he will win the presidency with 60 percent of the vote in the second round. Credit Benoit Tessier/Reuters

At the bigger demonstration in central Paris, which went from the Place de la République to the Place de la Nation, unions marched for workers’ rights and against Ms. Le Pen, without calling for support for Mr. Macron. Other demonstrators went even further, carrying banners and signs that read both “No to Macron” and “No to Le Pen.”

Some hooded protesters clashed with the police on the sidelines of the demonstrations, throwing rocks and firebombs at the officers, who responded with tear gas. Three riot police officers were wounded, the Paris police prefecture said.

Demonstrators at a smaller rally organized earlier on Monday in northeastern Paris by the more moderate labor unions, who have called for votes for Mr. Macron, said voters had to choose.

“Although we don’t support the politics of Macron, we advise our followers to vote for him, because we don’t want Le Pen,” said Olivier Belem, 56, a computer technician and union member. “The fact that the other unions don’t give voters clear advice will leave open the possibility of a blank vote and will help Le Pen in her chances of victory.”

Analysts predict that high abstention could help Ms. Le Pen, especially if left-wing voters reluctant to vote for Mr. Macron stay home on Election Day. The latest polls predict that Mr. Macron will beat Ms. Le Pen with roughly 60 percent of the vote in the second round.


Riot police officers were injured in clashes with protesters on the sidelines of the May Day demonstrations in Paris. Credit Zakaria Abdelkafi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Macron, who was scheduled to speak at a campaign rally in the north of the capital, did not attend the May Day demonstrations.

But he paid tribute to Brahim Bouarram, a 29-year-old man who was killed on the sidelines of a far-right demonstration in Paris on May 1, 1995, by skinheads who pushed him off a bridge and into the Seine. Mr. Macron was joined by Mr. Bouarram’s son, who was 9 at the time, as the candidate laid flowers at a plaque commemorating the killing on the Pont du Carrousel.

It was the latest in a series of campaign stops and statements aimed at drawing attention to the National Front’s anti-Semitic and racist roots, from which Ms. Le Pen has tried to distance herself.

Last Friday, Mr. Macron traveled to Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in central France that an SS division set on fire in 1944, killing 642 people; and on Sunday, he visited the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

The National Front’s unsavory past is embodied by Ms. Le Pen’s 88-year-old father and founder of the party, who on Monday addressed a couple of hundred supporters a traditional rally celebrating Joan of Arc in the heart of Paris.


Ms. Le Pen said on Monday at a campaign rally in Villepinte that her opponent was the candidate of “finance” and an “adversary of the people.” Credit Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Despite fears in Ms. Le Pen’s entourage that her father might indulge in yet another streak of inflammatory remarks, of which he has a rich history, Mr. Le Pen stuck to drawing a bleak picture of a declining France, citing immigration as the main factor, and to harsh criticism of Mr. Macron.

“He talks about the future, but he has no children; he talks about workers, but he’s a former banker at Rothschild; he wants to revitalize the economy, but he’s one of those who dynamited it,” Mr. Le Pen said, calling Mr. Macron a “masked Socialist.”

Ms. Le Pen, who announced last week that she would name a former right-wing rival prime minister if elected, said on Monday at a campaign rally in Villepinte, about 10 miles northeast of Paris, that Mr. Macron was the candidate of “finance” and that he was an “adversary of the people.”

“I will be a president who protects,” Ms. Le Pen told her cheering supporters, adding that her opponent’s “philosophy” was “Onward or die,” a reference to En Marche, or Onward, the name of Mr. Macron’s political movement.

Ms. Le Pen has campaigned on an anti-immigration and anti-European Union platform that has tapped into deep frustration about unemployment, especially among the working class.

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Mr. Macron said that he was “pro-European.” But he acknowledged that if elected he would need to “reform in depth the European Union and our European project,” lest he “betray” the French people.

“I don’t want to do so, because the day after, we will have a ‘Frexit,’” he said, referring to a French exit from the European Union, “or we will have the National Front again.”

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