Marine Le Pen, French presidential candidates salute police after Paris shooting

Nick Mcbride
April 21, 2017

He may, nevertheless, have a smoother run to a parliamentary majority than Macron or Le Pen, given that he has a party structure in his The Republicans grouping.

Le Pen, 48, has spent years trying to grow support for the FN by campaigning on bread-and-butter issues, but in the final days of the race she has returned to its stock themes of immigration and national identity.

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

Arguably, however, it is the French banking system that could suffer the biggest shock from a Le Pen triumph.

Conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon remained in contention with a chance of reaching the second round, partly because of the large number of voters who told pollsters they had not yet made up their minds. The field is split in what is emerging as a divisive contest that will nearly certainly result in a May 7 run-off between Sunday's top two vote-winners.

Societe Generale currency strategists said the risk of a run-off between the two anti-establishment candidates "is getting slightly less likely", noting Melenchon's poll ranking had failed to break above 20 percent despite the surge. Convicted extremists with dual nationality would also be stripped of their French passports.

French voters have so far been more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, opinion polls show, though analysts warn this would change quickly in the event of an attack.

While Le Pen has led the polls or been a close second for months, most still put Melenchon in fourth place.

Le Pen's deputy Florian Philippot fired back: "You'll see, we'll soon be sticking your oligarchic rag in the cupboard". "It's a sort of moral red line", the newspaper said.

Risky though this may sound for investors, whose confidence is built on the certainty of the single European market and common currency, he is sill not as risky as Le Pen; the National Front candidate is campaigning on a platform of "Frexit" - taking France not only out of the EU but out of the euro too.

Reacting to Le Pen's refusal to appear on France's TF1 television channel on Tuesday unless the EU's yellow-starred blue flag was removed, the Commission tweeted: "Proud of our flag, a symbol of unity, solidarity and harmony between the people of Europe".

The Communist-backed candidate has pledged to renegotiate some of the founding treaties of the bloc, however, which would cast serious doubt on the viability of the postwar project of integrating the continent.

Polls show that a majority of French people still support the European Union and the euro.

Macron, a former banker who quit as economy minister last August to set up his independent "En Marche!" or "Onwards!" movement, would beat Le Pen or any other candidate in the run-off, the Harris poll showed. "The rise of the far Right that blames France's problems on minority groups and foreigners is clearly a result of these failed policies and of centrist politicians' embrace of them". But many fear that Macron's supporters will not be as inspired as Le Pen's to turn out to vote.

Other reports by VgToday

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