Demonstrators throw stones at the police after the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, in Nantes, Sunday. - Reuters
Hundreds of people were arrested in France overnight in clashes between police and protesters angry over Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy's victory in Sunday's presidential election, police said.
Official figures released yesterday said demonstrators set fire to 730 cars and injured 78 policemen across France, with 592 people arrested in the violent protests against the tough-talking former interior minister.
The tally was revised sharply upwards after an initial report appeared to downplay the clashes and was at odds with local police figures and eyewitness reports, which suggested widespread troubles in numerous French cities.
Sarkozy made his name as a law-and-order hardliner who also tightened France's immigration laws, making him a hate figure for the left. Slogans spray-painted on the streets of Paris overnight included "Sarkozy fascist".
Leftist sympathisers clashed with police in and around Paris' Place de la Bastille after Sarkozy's victory against Socialist Segolene Royal and security forces fired tear gas and at least one burst of water cannon to disperse the crowd.
Youths went on the rampage in adjoining streets, smashing phone cabins and shop windows.
"Everyone got hit," said Sophie Wolkowitch, whose pharmacy suffered 14,000 ($19,000) of damage.
Similar attacks were reported in the southeastern city of Lyon and the southern city of Toulouse. Bus shelters were smashed in the northern city of Lille and a school was set on fire in theParis suburb of Evry.
In the northern department clustered around Lille, about 100 cars were torched, the fire brigade said.
In Nantes, 26 people were held for questioning and six police were slightly injured after 1,000 people joined a march against Sarkozy in the western city, said Yves Monard, head of public security of the Loire-Atlantique department.