Attack-hit city of Nice split over Le Pen vote in French presidentials | Reuters

By Ingrid Melander and Michel Bernouin
| NICE, France

NICE, France Taking a break from his morning jog on Nice's seaside boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais, 62-year-old Dominique Eche gets tears in his eyes when he recalls being around the corner when an Islamic State attack killed 86 people there last Bastille Day.The sports coach's children jumped down to the beach below to avoid the truck that ploughed into the crowd, and he says it is important to him to keep jogging there to show life goes on.But when he thinks about the presidential election, and far-right National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen's insistence that her tough line on security will prevent such atrocities, he gets angry."I saw the Nice attack from the inside and I find it appalling to try and benefit from such attacks, to say: 'It wouldn't have happened if I'd been in power'," Eche said on Thursday, speaking hours before Le Pen candidate was due to hold a big election rally in Nice.Next to him, workers were erecting concrete bollards to make sure trucks cannot access the pavement there anymore.The FN has said the Islamist attacks that have killed more than 230 people in France since 2015 can be curbed by suspending the European Union's open-border arrangement and clamping down on immigration.Le Pen's policies include locking up French-born suspected jihadists and expelling foreign ones.

One in four voted for Le Pen in Nice in the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, against 21.3 percent nationally, as she qualified for the May 7 runoff behind centrist Emmanuel Macron."NOT SAFE"?
Local FN representative Lionel Tivoli said FN membership in Nice's Alpes-Maritimes department had jumped from 740 two years ago to 3,500-4,000 now, driven in particular by the attacks. "What strikes people is that this attack took place where they live, here in the Alpes-Maritimes," Tivoli said in the FN's local headquarters. "We're not safe anywhere anymore."

The 31-year-old Tunisian who drove the truck had a history of violence and brushes with the law, and had been handed a suspended six-month prison term for road rage a few months earlier. Under the FN, Tivoli said, "this attack would have been avoided because he would not have been roaming free in Nice's streets".Market vendor Dominique Grion, working on a street market just in front of the Nikaia concert venue where the Le Pen rally was to take place, favoured Le Pen on a range of issues.

"She talks about things people want to hear," he said, adding that he agreed in particular with her plans to take France out of the EU. But 79-year-old Nice resident Roger Blanc, who backed conservative Francois Fillon in the first round and will vote Macron in the second, took a different view."We need Europe," he said. "It's not perfect but we need to be able to export our products."Asked about the attacks, he said: "I was very shocked by the attacks. But what would she (Le Pen) have done about it? What would she have done? Nothing. It's all just talk."Le Pen's first round score in Nice was up by two percentage points since the 2012 election, but this was a smaller increase than in her national score. Gilles Ivaldi, a specialist in the FN at the University of Nice, said this was partly because the local mainstream right was also strong in Nice, and took a hard line itself on issues such as security. (Additional reporting by Miranda Alexander-Webber; Editing by Andrew Callus and Kevin Liffey)

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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2017 23:35:25 IST

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