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France

French far-right, far-left call for snap elections

media L'Arc de Triomphe, sur la place de l’Etoile à Paris, a également été la cible de dégradations ce 1er décembre 2018. Stephane Mahe/REUTERS

France's far-right and far-left leaders have called for snap elections after a third weekend of violence between Yellow Vest protesters and police, as President Emmanuel Macron held a crisis meeting.

Ahead of the gathering at the Elysées Palace, the Interior Ministry said imposing a state of emergency to deal with the escalating chaos was not out of the question.

For the second straight weekend, thousands of Yellow Vest protesters took to the Champs-Elysées and surrounding areas in central Paris, angry over Macron's proposed hike on fuel prices, in violence unseen in decades.

The demonstration descended into mayhem as some protesters overturned and torched vehicles and smashed up shopfronts, throwing pavement stones at riot police, who responded with teargas, water canon and baton charges.

Snap election 'the only way out'

The leader of the hard-right, Marine Le Pen, and the far-left's Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the only way to resolve the chaos was to dissolve parliament.

"Given the gravity of the political crisis, I cannot see any good way out of this except to return to the polling stations," Le Pen, leader of the National Rally, told France 3 television.

"I think we must dissolve the National Assembly and hold new elections based on proportional representation," she added.

Mélenchon, head of the France Unbowed party, denounced the government for choosing to allow the situation to worsen, instead of appeasing the spiralling discontent by scrapping the fuel tax hikes.

"There's only one way to decide," said Mélenchon on BFM TV. "It's by voting. That's called a dissolution."

Staying the course

Upon his arrival on Sunday morning, after leaving the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Macron visited the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe, which was defaced during Saturday's havoc. He insisted that all perpetrators of violence and vandalism would face justice for their actions.

Some 380 people remain in police custody, a day after the clashes, according to police figures.

After the emergency meeting at the Elysées Palace, a government spokesman said the president would not immediately speak to the media on the situation.

The government has said it is open to dialogue with the gilets jaunes movement – which has no leader – but insisted it would not change course on the increases in fuel duty.

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