France had a secret plan to "Protect the Republic" if far-Right candidate Marine Le Pen had won the presidential election, amid fears of "extreme violence" it has been reported.
News of the plan emerged as Ms Le Pen conceded that a crucial TV debate against Emmanuel Macron, the centrist who would go on to beat her in the presidential runoff, had been a "failure" but that she would be running for a seat in parliament next month.
Dubbed 'Protect the Republic', the emergency plan was devised by a small group of ministers, chiefs of staff and top civil servants and would have been launched had Ms Le Pen reached the Elysée palace, according to L'Obs magazine, citing three anonymous sources.
“It was like a multi-stage rocket,” an unnamed senior official told l’Obs. “The philosophy, and the absolute imperative, was to keep the peace, while also respecting our constitutional rules.”
Fearing “extreme violence” from mainly far Left protesters in the event of a Le Pen victory as the country would have found itself “on the brink of chaos”, the plan entailed “freezing” the political situation by convening parliament in an emergency session and maintaining the outgoing prime minister in office until parliamentary elections.
Ms Le Pen would have been forced to “cohabit” with a government and prime minister from a different party, which she could have changed only if she won a parliamentary majority - an unlikely prospect.
Even before the first round of voting on 23 April, a confidential note drawn up by the intelligence services observed that “without exception, every local public safety directorate has expressed its concern”, Le Parisien reported.
Her qualification for the second round prompted violent scenes in some French cities, notably on May Day when petrol bombs were thrown at police, seriously injuring at least one.
Parliament would have been recalled for the Wednesday after the May 7 second round to discuss the “national crisis and outbreaks of violence” provoked by Ms Le Pen’s win, the report claims.
“The country would have come to a halt and the government would have just one priority, assuring the security of the state,” a source told L’Obs.
In the end Emmanuel Macron won the second round comfortably, with 66 per cent of the vote, prompting only a few protests involving anti-capitalist and anarchist groups in certain cities around France, including Paris.
Ms Le Pen on Thursday announced that should she will run in parliamentary elections for her Front National party in Hénin Beaumont, in the northern Pas-de-Calais area, after remaining silent since her defeat amid reports she was exhausted and despondent.
Speaking on TF1, Ms Le Pen conceded that her widely criticised performance in a crucial debate against Mr Macron between the two presidential rounds was a "very clearly a failure".
"I made the choice of highlighting the very major fears I had concerning the policies that Mr Macron intends to pursue. I did it with spirit, with passion, perhaps too much spirit and too much passion," she conceded.
Ms Le Pen also said that her plan to pull France out of the euro had been a stumbling block. "I am well aware the issue of the euro worried the French considerably, even in an almost irrational way, but it's a fact. So we'll have to take that into account" in party discussions after the parliamentary elections next month.
Rifts, meanwhile, have appeared within her party. Her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a star of the far-Right, has withdrawn from political life while Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, head of the Eurosceptic party Debout La France distanced himself from Ms Le Pen after forging an alliance between the two presidential rounds.
Meanwhile, her party number two Florian Philippot has formed his own "patriotic" movement, raising eyebrows.