France's presidential election candidates Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen on Friday challenged the university protests to denounce the contest between the two in the final round of the election, calling on the students to not become “anarchic” and to “respect democracy.”
"I think democracy is made up of rules. If we start to challenge all the rules, it becomes anarchy," Macron, the outgoing president and the candidate of the Republic on the Move party, told FranceInfo news.
Far-right National Rally’s candidate Le Pen who was on BFMTV news questioned if the political science students skipped the democracy class. “I believe that it is deeply undemocratic to oppose the will expressed by the French people,” she added.
Three days after the results of the first round of the elections qualified Macron and Le Pen into the final polls on April 24, students’ unions at the prestigious Sorbonne, Sciences PO, and Ecole Normale Superieure universities launched protests blocking the entrance of the campus and obstructing regular classes.
The demonstrations held under the slogan "neither Le Pen nor Macron" claim that the two candidates are the two sides of the same coin, propagating the same set of right-wing policies. The protesting students instead wanted candidates with environmental and social issues leading the elections.
The demonstrations in Paris spread to several universities across the country leading agitated students to clash with the police that came to disperse the crowd.
Macron strongly disputed that his government’s policy in the first term was the same as the far-right. Defending his politics from the Republican field, he noted the difference with "the extreme right” which "on several occasions, challenged fundamental values, on Constitutional reform, restoring the death penalty, or challenging press freedom."
"I think we are in another category," he assured.
In an interview with the BFMTV broadcaster, Le Pen acknowledged the right to protest but found the development worrying as they were organized by students who study political science, democratic system, and constitution. "I find that they should rather carry out campaigns to encourage young people to vote,” she said, adding that it is important for young people to vote, as their choices will impact their future.
On Saturday, the students' protests, organized by several collectives, including trade and workers unions, youth movements, and human rights associations, are expected to culminate into nationwide demonstrations against the far-right.