France Braces for Pivotal Vote Amid Violent Election Campaign and Political Tensions

France’s hurried and sometimes violent election campaign has concluded, with political leaders making stark appeals ahead of Sunday’s crucial vote.

Centrist Prime Minister Gabriel Attal warned on Friday night that a far-right government would “unleash hatred and violence.” Meanwhile, National Rally leader Jordan Bardella accused his rivals of immoral, anti-democratic behavior and urged voters to mobilize and grant him an outright majority.

One in three French voters supported National Rally (RN) in the first round of parliamentary elections last Sunday. The choice now is between France’s first far-right government in modern times or political deadlock, leaving voters anxious about the turmoil ahead regardless of the outcome.

The climate is so tense that 30,000 extra police officers are being deployed. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reported that 51 candidates, deputies, or party activists had been physically attacked by people of varying backgrounds, including some who were “spontaneously angry.”

In one incident, an extremist network published a list of nearly 100 lawyers “for eliminating” after they signed an open letter against National Rally. President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call the election less than a month ago came as a shock, with unknown consequences.

When voters discuss the election, the tension is evident. Kaltoun, whose hair is covered, said in her town on the border with Belgium, where RN won the first round, she and her daughter have felt increasingly uncomfortable. “It’s a remark or a look; each election it’s got worse.”

In nearby Tourcoing, Gérald Darmanin faces a strong challenge to hold his seat from the far-right candidate who was just 800 votes behind him last Sunday.

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