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Paris shooting 'helped boost Le Pen'

Nanterre City Council was the scene of a shooting spree that left eight officials dead just weeks before the presidential vote  

By CNN's Hala Gorani

NANTERRE, France (CNN) -- A few weeks before the first round of the French presidential election, a man burst into the Nanterre City Council building outside Paris and fired randomly with an automatic weapon, killing eight elected officials.

The event shocked the country and highlighted the issue of crime and violence, which became the major theme of the presidential campaign.

Some analysts say the shootings helped far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen win a spot in the runoff.

A few days before the second and final round of the elections, CNN returned to Nanterre and asked people in the community what they thought of their new political landscape.

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Cafe manager Madeleine Maufrais was in the Nanterre City Council when the shooting took place. An elected City Council member who's lived in Nanterre for seven years, she says she's lucky to have made it out alive.

She says the rise in crime -- as well as the perception that violence is out of control -- helped win Le Pen a spot in the runoff.

"Absolutely, because there's no other choice," says Maufrais. "People think that by voting Le Pen, they're solving their problems. But it's an illusion."

Among those of immigrant descent in Maufrais's cafe, there is a surprising understanding of why a substantial chunk of the French electorate voted for a candidate whom many call a racist.

Mohamed, 38, says young North Africans are partly to blame for Le Pen's victory.

"There are many young North Africans who could vote but choose to stay home, smoke joints, drink beer," he says.

In the Nanterre cafe, there's little concern about Le Pen's success. Many say he'll never become president -- and that his presence in the runoff might just rock the boat enough to force mainstream politicians to address difficult issues.




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