Security beefed up to avert election violence

6th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - Thousands of French police, anti-riot units and gendarmes were on standby Sunday to quell any outbreak of violence that could be sparked by a presidential election victory for Nicolas Sarkozy.

PARIS, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - Thousands of French police, anti-riot units and gendarmes were on standby Sunday to quell any outbreak of violence that could be sparked by a presidential election victory for Nicolas Sarkozy.

Some 3,000 anti-riot and military gendarmes were on hand in Paris and in the nearby suburbs where rioting broke out in 2005 to respond to any flareup, a police source said.

Thousands of additional police, in uniform and plain-clothes, as well as officers from police intelligence were deployed across the country as French voters went to the polls to choose a successor to President Jacques Chirac.

Sarkozy, the right-wing former interior minister and clear favorite to win the election against Socialist Segolene Royal, is hated in the suburbs that exploded into riots for three weeks in late 2005, with youths burning buildings and cars.

Royal on Friday warned of "violence and brutalities that will be triggered across the country" if Sarkozy emerges victorious.

The massive police deployment "is about the same as what can be put in place for major World Cup football matches or for New Year's Eve festivities," said a police source.

In Clichy-sous-Bois, the suburb east of Paris where the riots started in 2005, the president of a local organisation said he did not expect fresh violence if Sarkozy wins.

"It's not going to blow up," said Mohamed Mechmache, president of the group AC Le Feu! (Enough Fire). "There might be some protests, but that's normal."

Three weeks of rioting began in Clichy-sous-Bois after two teenage boys died from electrocution in a power station where they were hiding from police in October 2005.

It was under Sarkozy's watch as interior minister that the rioting was brought to an end. He has been blamed for fanning tensions in the suburbs when he referred to young troublemakers as "rabble".

Surveillance helicopters equipped with a powerful searchlights could be deployed later Sunday over some suburbs, a spokesman for national police said.

Transport police have also been ordered to step up vigilance in the Paris region to "prevent gangs" from traveling to the capital, where Sarkozy supporters are planning a "victory party" near Paris' famed Champs Elysees later Sunday.

A police source expressed concern that a Sarkozy victory could "spark a certain rejection" in the poor suburbs but added that such expectations during the first round of voting did not materialize.

Sarkozy took the first place in the multi-candidate first round of voting on April 22 that led to the runoff with Royal.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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