French candidates boost security ahead of tense vote


There are 11 candidates, including five main candidates, to replace the current president, Francois Hollande.

To be sure, opinion polls still favor the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron in a second-round run-off.

(Thomas Samson/ pool photo via AP). French presidential election candidate for the En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron reacts during his visit at the KRYS group's headquarters in Bazainville, near Paris Tuesday April 18, 2017.

After the United Kingdom's unexpected vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's unexpected triumph in the USA presidential election a year ago, you might imagine that Europe's chancelleries have developed detailed contingency plans for a victory by the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election.

Perhaps what most separates the French elections from others in Europe-either recently having taken place or soon to take place; the Netherlands, Germany and Italy included-is that no clear favourite candidate has been determined as yet.

Security, which Le Pen links closely to immigration, was threatening to once again become a campaign issue on Tuesday after two men were arrested in Marseille, in southern France, on suspicion of planning an attack during the voting.

Police scuffled with ultra-left and anti-Le Pen protesters heading to her rally.

Gaspard Flamant, 26, said he feared Le Pen could win. "We saw (President Donald) Trump, we saw I'm mistrustful", he said. However, she has recently lost the leader's edge in polls.

Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon's ratings have plummeted to as low as 8 percent and no pollster sees him qualifying for the second round.

The two would make it to a runoff on May 7, with Macron seen as the likeliest eventual victor in the second round, but both candidates appeared to be losing steam in the last few days of a tightly fought campaign ahead of the first April 23 ballot, according to the poll, based on a survey of 11,601 people.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who has dominated the campaign with her anti-immigration, anti-EU proposals, is appealing to her electoral base in hopes of maintaining a shot at the runoff.

Ahead of his final event in the western city of Nantes, Macron met with the country's RAID intervention force accompanied by Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Le Pen dismissed as "folly" government statements that France, which has been subjected to multiple deadly attacks in recent years, must be prepared to live with the threat of terrorism.

If you are voting in the election we want to hear from you. She plans to leave the euro currency and hold a vote on European Union membership. As for the European Union itself, she promises to follow in the UK's footsteps, renegotiating the terms of her country's membership, and then calling a referendum on the agreement.

Melenchon, a firebrand left-winger who has surged in recent weeks, was on 19 per cent, while Fillon, whose campaign has been hurt by a financial scandal, received 19.5 per cent of support.

Macron is seen beating Le Pen in a run-off vote by 65 percent to 35 percent.

Le Pen has said she would extend the law banning "ostensible" religious signs to the streets of France.

On Tuesday night, she insisted that the TF1 television channel remove the blue-and-yellow European flag from behind her before an interview.

PARIS (AP) - Belgium's federal prosecutor says the country had opened an investigation into one of the suspects arrested for plotting an attack that officials say was thwarted days before the French presidential election.