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Fillon criticises French government over campaign violence

Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of the Republicans political party and 2017 presidential election candidate of the French centre-right, attends a campaign rally in Maisons-Alfort, near Paris, France, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

PARIS (Reuters) - Francois Fillon, The Republicans’ presidential candidate, on Sunday accused the French government of not doing enough to curb the violence that has hit election campaign events.

Fillon said in a statement that two months before the April and May election, France was witnessing a “quasi civil war” situation that has disrupted campaigning.

He cited an event of his rival Emmauel Macron in the southeastern city of Toulon that was disrupted by protesters last week, and a National Front campaign rally in the Atlantic port city of Nantes that was marred by two days of violence on Saturday and Sunday.

Authorities said 13 gendarmes were injured in the clashes in Nantes on Saturday when left-wing activists staged a protest against the National Front rally.

“I remind you that we are in a state of emergency and yet the government is letting this happen,” Fillon said. “It is necessary that the government ensures that conditions for the smooth running of the elections and that it enforces the rule of law.”

Saying that the situation was serious, the conservative Fillon said candidates must have the right to express themselves.

“The government must ensure that enemies of democracy cease disrupting this presidential campaign,” Fillon said.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Angus MacSwan