Several clashes between opponents and supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were reported in France on Monday, as Turks living abroad voted in pivotal elections back home.
Brawls broke out at polling stations in the southern French city of Marseille yesterday, with four police officers and four civilians injured in the violence. Officers used tear gas to disperse the crowds, and two people were arrested.
Similar incidents occurred in Paris, Lyon, and Nantes, where some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at the police. Nearly 300 people were detained across the country, and at least 108 police officers were wounded.
The clashes came amid a heated election campaign in Turkey, where Erdogan is facing a united opposition for the first time since coming to office more than 20 years ago. His support has been eroded by an economic crisis and accusations of authoritarianism.
His main rival, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leads an alliance of six opposition parties, ranging from the nationalist right to the democratic left. He has vowed to expel the country’s large Syrian refugee population of around 3.5 million if he wins the election.
Elections in Turkey will take place on May 14, but Turkey’s large ex-pat community is being allowed to vote weeks before. It is one of the most significant votes in years, which will shape Turkey’s political destiny.
The Kurdish community in France, which has a long history of conflict with Turkey, was also outraged by the attack on a Kurdish cultural center in Paris on Thursday, which left three people dead and several injured. Some Kurds blamed Turkey for the attack, without evidence at this stage.
The French government condemned the violence and expressed its solidarity with the victims. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said that the scenes of violence on the sidelines of the protests were “unacceptable” and praised the law enforcement for their work.