Posts Tagged ‘France’s presidential election’

China more interested in Macron’s marriage than his politics

April 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Chinese social media users have been largely supportive of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron’s relationship with his 64-year-old wife Brigitte

BEIJING (AFP) – China is closely following France’s presidential election, but web users appear less interested in the politics than the unusual marriage between moderate candidate Emmanuel Macron and his former teacher.

Comparisons with the characters of a popular Chinese television drama called “In the Name of the People” — which also happens to be the slogan of French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen — have flooded China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

The main villain of the ripped-from-the-headlines show, which follows the exploits of an anti-corruption squad tackling graft at the highest levels of government, is a dodgy official who marries a woman 10 years his senior in a bid for power.

Posts using a hashtag about the French politician’s much-discussed marriage — which translates into English as “Marrying his teacher 24 years his senior” — have been viewed more than nine million times on the social media site.

Despite the seemingly unfavourable comparison to a corrupt official, social media commenters have been largely supportive of 39-year-old Macron’s relationship with his 64-year-old wife Brigitte.

“Taking a high school teacher and mother as his wife, you can only call this French man a romantic,” one web user said.

“Age isn’t distance,” said another. “Please don’t make malicious assumptions about others.”

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French Socialist candidate livid as ex-PM Valls defects to Macron

March 29, 2017
By Michel Rose and Sudip Kar-Gupta
Reuters — March 29, 2017
French Socialist candidate livid as ex-PM Valls defects to Macron

By Michel Rose and Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday he would vote for Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election, becoming the biggest Socialist Party name to turn his back on its official candidate and support the centrist instead.

While it was not clear if Valls’ defection would benefit poll favourite Macron, who politely thanked Valls, it prompted angry responses from many Socialists and media speculation about the survival of the largest left-wing party.

Manuel Valls (R) with Emmanuel Macron - file pic 2014
Manuel Valls (R) said it was a responsible position to back the centrist candidate

France’s ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls has thrown his weight behind the centrist candidate for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron, and not his own Socialist party’s candidate.

Valls, whose announcement came days after veteran Socialist defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian deserted to Macron, said he wanted to do all he could to ensure that far-right leader Marine Le Pen, second-placed in opinion polls, did not win power.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Valls said, adding that he believed Le Pen’s score potential was seriously underrated. “I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” he told BFM TV.

French opinion polls show Macron winning the presidency in a second-round vote on May 7 where he would face off against Le Pen. They show Socialist Benoit Hamon set for a humiliating fifth place in the first round eliminator on April 23.

Hamon, a hardline Socialist who wants to legalise cannabis and create a monthly state payment for all, is on course to win only 10 percent of the vote in the first round, according to an Elabe poll published on Wednesday.

Hamon denounced Valls’ defection and called on all left-wingers to unite behind him 25 days from round one of the election. “I urge you to sanction those who’ve started this morbid game…those who no longer believe in anything,” he said in a statement.

Valls said his choice did not mean he would campaign for the 39-year-old Macron – a fellow minister in President Francois Hollande’s government from 2014, but who quit last year to prepare a presidential bid under his own political banner En Marche! (Onwards!).

Valls, who lost to radical left-winger Hamon in the Socialist primaries, is seen by political sources and experts as likely to wait in the wings and seek to build a reformist parliamentary force that would be distinct from En Marche!, but which could get a say in its parliamentary majority should Macron become president.

“I have nothing to negotiate and am not asking for anything, I’m not joining his camp,” Valls said. “But nothing will be the same after this presidential election…The duty of reformists is to play their part in a governing parliamentary majority.”

Macron, who has drawn support from the political right as well as left, was also quick to say he did not plan to bring Valls into his government. “I shall be the guarantor of new faces, new ways of doing things,” he said on Europe 1 Radio.

The news came a day after third-placed candidate Francois Fillon, under formal judicial investigation on suspicion of financial impropriety, suffered a further blow when his British wife Penelope was put under formal investigation as well.

The inquiry centres on allegations that the couple misused hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds, with him paying her a lavish tax-funded salary for minimal work as his parliamentary assistant.

Francois Fillon has conceded what he called errors of judgment but denies doing anything illegal.

“NO HONOUR”

Valls’ endorsement is a mixed blessing for Macron, even though their political views are not far apart.

Fillon, who has promised to slash government spending, seized on Valls’ move to say their would be no break with the past under Macron as both men were key ministers under Hollande.

“All of Hollande’s team is backing Emmanuel Macron. It’s as I’ve always said, Emmanuel Macron is Francois Hollande,” Fillon told reporters.

For many Socialists, and above all candidate Hamon, Valls’ decision comes from a man who represents Hollande’s rightward turn during his five-year mandate towards the business-friendly reforms that upset the left and alienated core voters.

The blow for Hamon clearly compounded existing left-right splits within the party.

“Everybody now knows what a commitment signed by a man like Manuel Valls is worth,” Arnaud Montebourg, a more hardline leftist in the Socialist Party, said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Michel Rose and Leigh Thomas; writing by Andrew Callus and Brian Love editing by Mark Heinrich)

A month before France votes, undecideds in the lead

March 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Marie WOLFROM | More than 40 percent of French voters have yet to decide how they will cast their ballot, with less than a month to go
LA FERTÉ-SAINT-AUBIN (FRANCE) (AFP) – Having a flutter on the horses in his local bar, Eric Belouet picks his favourites without hesitation. But when it comes to France’s presidential election, he can’t make up his mind.

“Really, I can’t,” said the 59-year-old, his eyes on the TV screen broadcasting the races. “I’m on the right. But for Francois Fillon, it’s over.”

Belouet, a former funeral goods salesman who lives in the little town of La Ferte-Saint-Aubin in central France, said “the door had been wide open” for Fillon to become president when the country votes in the two-round election on April 23 and May 7.

But that was before Fillon’s campaign was rocked by multiple scandals over expenses and conflicts of interest, including allegations that he paid his wife for years as a parliamentary assistant with little evidence that she did any work.

Unable to forgive Fillon, Belouet finds himself among the 40 percent of voters who have yet to decide how they’ll vote with less than a month to go — or even if they’ll show up on election day at all.

It is the highest rate of indecision France has ever seen at this point in a presidential campaign, and adds yet another element of uncertainty to one of the most unpredictable elections in living memory.

For Anne Jadot, a political science professor at the University of Lorraine, it is the string of scandals and surprises in the campaign so far that have left so many voters on the fence.

“This has created a lot of uncertainty and unexpected developments, so we’re talking less about the issues and policies,” Jadot told AFP.

– Going fishing –

La Ferte-Saint-Aubin was divided at the last election in 2012, voting narrowly for rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the eventual winner Francois Hollande.

Five years on, many in the quiet red-brick town of 7,400 people, at the edge of the hunting forests of Solognes, could hardly be bothered with politics in this election cycle.

“At the outdoor market, only one person in 20 talks to me about the presidential election,” says Constance de Pelichy, the town’s conservative mayor.

“It’s worrying, because that shows a lack of interest.”

France endured many months of speculation before knowing who was actually running for president.

Hollande held off until December to announce he would step down, forgoing a run for re-election after five difficult years at the helm.

It then took until late January, after a two-round primary, for Benoit Hamon to emerge as the Socialists’ candidate.

On the right meanwhile, Fillon suffered weeks of pressure to abandon his presidential bid because of the fake jobs scandal, but he has insisted on staying in the race, even after being formally charged with misuse of public funds.

“There’s major confusion,” sighed 65-year-old Jacques Drouet as he sat in the 1960s-style bar in La Ferte-Saint-Aubin.

“We’re trapped between voting with our hearts and voting tactically,” said the former trade unionist, who usually votes on the left.

The typical election scenario is for the French to vote for their favourite candidate in the first round before trying to eliminate their least favourite in the second.

Drouet’s ideas are closest to Hamon’s — but he’s considering breaking with tradition and voting for centrist Emmanuel Macron even in the first round, hoping to minimise far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s chances of making it into the run-off, as polls predict she will.

For many, the most dramatic example of tactical voting was in 2002, when Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen rocked the political establishment by reaching the runoff. In that second round, voters of various political stripes reluctantly got behind conservative candidate Jacques Chirac to block the far right.

This time, the major remaining unknown is who will face Marine Le Pen. Fillon started the campaign as her most obvious rival, but the scandals have battered his ratings. Polls predict that Le Pen is most likely to square off against Macron, formerly seen as an underdog, at the May 7 run-off vote.

But if her opponent is Fillon, Drouet said: “I’d leave my ballot blank as things stand now.”

Other undecided voters are planning on simply staying away on election day, meaning abstention rates could be high — perhaps beating the 20 percent who abstained in 2012.

Eric Belouet is contemplating doing something else on April 23 instead of heading to the ballot box — going fishing, perhaps, though not even that is a certainty.

“It’ll depend on the weather,” he said.

by Marie WOLFROM

Orly airport attacker ‘had been drinking, taking drugs’, autopsy reveals — “He never prayed, and he drank.”

March 20, 2017

AFP

© THOMAS SAMSON / AFP | Police officers investigate at the house of the suspect of an attack at the Paris Orly’s airport, on March 18, 2017, in Garges-les-Gonesse.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

The man shot dead at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking a soldier was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time, a judicial source said Sunday.

Investigators are still trying to understand what motivated Saturday’s assault by 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, which led to a major security scare and the temporary closure of the capital’s second-busiest airport.

“Toxicology tests carried out on Sunday showed an alcohol level of 0.93 grams per litre in his blood, and the presence of cannabis and cocaine,” the source said.

Ben Belgacem’s father had insisted earlier Sunday that his son was “not a terrorist” and that his actions were caused by drink and drugs.

Ben Belgacem, who was born in France to Tunisian parents, grabbed a soldier on patrol at Orly’s southern terminal on Saturday morning. He put a gun to her head and seized her rifle, saying he wanted to “die for Allah”.

The attacker, who had also fired at police in a northern Paris suburb earlier that morning, was shot dead by two other soldiers after a scuffle.

Ben Belgacem’s father insisted his son — who had spent time in prison for armed robbery and drug-dealing — was not a extremist.

“My son was not a terrorist. He never prayed, and he drank,” the father, who was in shock and whose first name was not given, told Europe 1 radio.

Investigators were examining his telephone.

The attack at Orly comes with France still on high alert following a wave of jihadist attacks that have claimed more than 230 lives in two years.

The violence has made security a key issue in France’s two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

Not on terror watchlist

Ben Belgacem’s brother and cousin were released Sunday after they, like the attacker’s father, were held for questioning. All three had approached police themselves on Saturday after the attack.

After spending Friday night in a bar with his cousin, Ben Belgacem was pulled over by police for speeding in the gritty northern Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse, where he lived, just before 7:00 am.

He drew a gun and fired, slightly injuring one officer. Shortly after, he contacted his relatives to tell them he had “done something stupid”, they told police.

Ben Belgacem later appeared at the bar where he had been the previous night, firing more shots and stealing another car before continuing on to the airport.

He had been investigated in 2015 over suspicions he had radicalised while serving jail time, but his name did not feature on the list of those thought to pose a high risk.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Ben Belgacem appeared to have become caught up in a “sort of headlong flight that became more and more destructive”.

Dozens of flights to and from Orly were cancelled during an hours-long shutdown after the incident, but by Sunday afternoon air traffic had returned to normal, a spokeswoman for the Paris airports authority said.

The shooting took place on the second day of a visit to Paris by Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, which was unaffected.

‘I’ve screwed up’

Ben Belgacem’s father told Europe 1 his son had called him after the first police shooting “in a state of extreme agitation”.

“He said to me: ‘Daddy, please forgive me. I’ve screwed up with a police officer’.”

At the time of his death, Ben Belgacem was carrying a petrol can in his backpack, as well as 750 euros ($805) in cash, a copy of the Koran, a packet of cigarettes and a lighter.

A small amount of cocaine and a machete were found during a search of his home on Saturday.

Soldiers guarding key sites have been targeted in four attacks in the past two years but escaped with only minor injuries.

In mid-February, a machete-wielding Egyptian man attacked a soldier outside Paris’s Louvre museum, injuring him slightly, before being shot and wounded.

President Francois Hollande said Saturday his government was “determined to fight relentlessly against terrorism”.

(AFP)

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Paris Attacker Shot At Police on Saturday Morning in Paris, Died In Orly Airport Shooting Hours Later — Radicalized Muslim known to intelligence services

March 18, 2017

PARIS — The man who was shot dead by soldiers at Orly airport on Saturday was the same individual who had shot at security services earlier in the morning in northern Paris and was a radicalized Muslim known to authorities, a police source said.

“A police road check took place in Stains (northern Paris) this morning at 0700. It turned bad and the individual shot at the officers before fleeing,” one police source said.

“This same man – a radicalized Muslim known to intelligence services and the justice system – then took a Famas (assault weapon) from a soldier at Orly’s southern terminal … before being shot dead by a soldier.”

A second police source said the two incidents were linked.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Armed: Three gunmen who attacked the offices of controversial magazine Charlie Hebdo this morning remain on the run this afternoon, causing authorities to heighten security

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Lockdown: The streets of Paris are being patrolled by soldiers dressed in combat fatigues and carrying Famas assault rifles this afternoon after a terror attack killed 12 people earlier in the day

Orly shooting: ‘radicalised Muslim’ killed at Paris airport had shot police officer

March 18, 2017

The Guardian

Police sources say man killed by soldier was earlier involved in incident north of French capital in which policeman was shot and injured

A man said to be a radicalised Muslim known to security services shot a police officer north of Paris before going to Orly airport, where he was shot and killed on Saturday morning.

The man was shot after he tried to grab a soldier’s weapon at the airport, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

“A man took a weapon from a soldier then hid in a shop in the airport before being shot dead by security forces,” he said.

The soldier was part of the Sentinel special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.

Police sources said the same man was also involved in the incident at Stains, north of the French capital, in which a policeman was shot and injured during a road check.

No explosive devices were found on the dead man’s body, Brandet said.

© AFP | French special forces secure the area after a man was shot dead at Paris’ Orly airport, on March 18, 2017

Police evacuated both terminals at Orly and all flights have been suspended, with some diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport. Travellers have been told to avoid the airport while the security operation was under way. Some passengers whose flights had already landed were being held on board.

A witness, Franck Lecam, said: “We had queued up to check in for the Tel Aviv flight when we heard three or four shots nearby. We are all outside the airport, about 200 metres from the entrance.

“There are policemen, emergency workers and soldiers everywhere in all directions. A security official told us that it happened near gates 37-38 where Turkish Airlines flights were scheduled.”

No one else was injured in the Orly incident.

The French interior minister, Bruno Le Roux, is due to visit the airport, south of Paris, later.

The aiport shooting follows after a similar incident last month at the Louvre museum in central Paris.

France remains under a state of emergency in the wake of the attack on the Bataclan music venue in November 2015 in which 90 people were killed by jihadi gunmen, and the Nice truck attack last July that claimed the lives of 84 people and injured hundreds more.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/18/man-shot-dead-at-paris-airport-after-trying-to-grab-gun-reports-say

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Man shot dead at Paris Orly airport after taking soldier’s gun: official

March 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | French special forces secure the area after a man was shot dead at Paris’ Orly airport, on March 18, 2017

PARIS (AFP) – Security forces at Paris’ Orly airport on Saturday shot dead a man who took a weapon from a soldier, the interior ministry said, adding that nobody else was hurt in the incident.Witnesses said the airport was evacuated following the shooting at around 8:30am (0730GMT).

“A man took a weapon from a soldier then hid in a shop in the airport before being shot dead by security forces,” an interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

He said no one was wounded in the incident.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux is due to visit the facility, which is in Paris’ southern outskirts, the spokesman added.

“We had queued up to check in for the Tel Aviv flight when we heard three or four shots nearby,” witness Franck Lecam said.

“The whole airport has been evacuated,” the 54-year-old said, confirming what an airport worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said earlier.

“We are all outside the airport, about 200 metres from the entrance,” Lecam said.

“There are policemen, emergency workers and soldiers everywhere in all directions. A security official told us that it happened near gates 37-38 where Turkish Airlines flights were scheduled.”

Related:

A picture taken on February 7, 2017 shows the wreckage of a burnt car in one of the main streets of the Cite des 3000 in Aulnay-sous-Bois

The wreckage of a burnt car in Aulnay-sous-Bois after angry French youths clashed with police over the alleged rape of a local man during his arrest. CREDIT:GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT /AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris has been evacuated after a huge security operation was launched this morning

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris was evacuated after a huge security operation was launched

ATTACK AT THE LOUVRE: Machete-wielding man shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ stopped by soldier, police say
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/03/shooting-at-louvre-french-soldier-reportedly-opens-fire-during-security-scare.html

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, crowd and outdoor

 Paris — April 2016 — A protestor kicks a tear gas cannister as demonstrators clash with anti-riot police. Photograph by Joel Saget, AFP, Getty Images
.
Image may contain: one or more people, sunglasses and outdoor
Soldiers protecting Notre Dame in Paris

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FRANCE COULD BE READY TO LIFT STATE OF EMERGENCY, SAYS JUSTICE MINISTER

France may be ready to drop its state of emergency, which has been in place since the deadly extremist attacks on Paris in November 2015.

In a speech Wednesday, Minister of Justice Jean-Jacques Urvoas said: “We have created the conditions that make it possible to exit the state of emergency, without weakening ourselves or remaining helpless in the face of the threat of terrorism,” French daily newspaper Le Figaroreports.

The state of emergency has dramatically increased the number and visibility of armed law enforcement officials on patrol across the country and tightened the laws on public assembly.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, flower, plant, shoes, table and child

Its implementation proved controversial, with increased raids on Muslim communities in the immediate aftermath of the attacks attracting particular criticism from human rights groups.

Urvoas did not give any final date for returning to a lower state of alert, however it has to be approved on a bi-annual basis. The current extension ends in July – two months after France’s upcoming presidential election.

Paris Orly airport: Man killed after attempt to seize soldier’s gun — Hours after Minister of Justice proposes lifting “State of Emergency”

March 18, 2017

A man has been shot dead after trying to seize a gun from a soldier at Orly airport, French police say. Security officials have evacuated the building and urged visitors to avoid the area.

Image may contain: outdoor

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the man ran into a shop inside the airport before he was shot dead on Saturday morning.

A bomb sweep was underway at the site to make sure the individual was not wearing an explosive belt, Brandet added.

The ministry also reported that a police officer was shot and injured in a separate incident north of Paris.

Emergency vehicles surrounded Orly airport as the elite RAID special police force secured the area.

Security officials evacuated part of the building and urged the public to keep clear while the police operation was underway.

[] On going police operation. Please respect the safety perimeter and avoid the airport area.

“We were waiting in line to board the flight to Tel Aviv when we heard three or four gunshots nearby,” witness Franck Lecam told AFP. “The whole airport was evacuated.”

A national police official said the soldier accosted by the slain man was part of the Sentinel special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a series of deadly terror attacks.

The man’s motive wasn’t immediately clear. No one else was reported to have been harmed in the incident.

Minister of the Interior Bruno Le Roux was on his way to the airport, his office reported.

France remains under a state of emergency after several recent terror attacks. In November 2015 multiple terrorists killed 130 people in simultaneous attacks in Paris. In July 2016, an attacker drove a truck through crowds in Nice celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

Orly airport is south of Paris and is the French capital’s second-largest airport after Charles de Gaulle.

nm/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/paris-orly-airport-man-killed-after-attempt-to-seize-soldiers-gun/a-38006216

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A picture taken on February 7, 2017 shows the wreckage of a burnt car in one of the main streets of the Cite des 3000 in Aulnay-sous-Bois

The wreckage of a burnt car in Aulnay-sous-Bois after angry French youths clashed with police over the alleged rape of a local man during his arrest. CREDIT:GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT /AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris has been evacuated after a huge security operation was launched this morning

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris was evacuated after a huge security operation was launched

ATTACK AT THE LOUVRE: Machete-wielding man shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ stopped by soldier, police say
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/03/shooting-at-louvre-french-soldier-reportedly-opens-fire-during-security-scare.html

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, crowd and outdoor

 Paris — April 2016 — A protestor kicks a tear gas cannister as demonstrators clash with anti-riot police. Photograph by Joel Saget, AFP, Getty Images
.
Image may contain: one or more people, sunglasses and outdoor
Soldiers protecting Notre Dame in Paris

*************************************

FRANCE COULD BE READY TO LIFT STATE OF EMERGENCY, SAYS JUSTICE MINISTER

France may be ready to drop its state of emergency, which has been in place since the deadly extremist attacks on Paris in November 2015.

In a speech Wednesday, Minister of Justice Jean-Jacques Urvoas said: “We have created the conditions that make it possible to exit the state of emergency, without weakening ourselves or remaining helpless in the face of the threat of terrorism,” French daily newspaper Le Figaroreports.

The state of emergency has dramatically increased the number and visibility of armed law enforcement officials on patrol across the country and tightened the laws on public assembly.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, flower, plant, shoes, table and child

Its implementation proved controversial, with increased raids on Muslim communities in the immediate aftermath of the attacks attracting particular criticism from human rights groups.

Urvoas did not give any final date for returning to a lower state of alert, however it has to be approved on a bi-annual basis. The current extension ends in July – two months after France’s upcoming presidential election.

Le Pen Seen Ahead in First Round of French Election, Losing Second-Poll

March 9, 2017

PARIS — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is seen well ahead in the first round of the presidential election but losing the second round by a wide margin to independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.

The monthly Cevipof survey for Le Monde newspaper has a much larger sample than most French election polls, with over 15,000 people surveyed.

It shows Le Pen with 27 percent of votes in the first round, up one percentage point from last month, with Macron stable at 23 percent and conservative Francois Fillon actually gaining one point to 19.5 percent despite the financial scandal he is embroiled in.

Macron is seen beating Le Pen in the run-off by 62 percent versus 38 percent. Were he to qualify for the second round instead of Macron, Fillon would still beat Le Pen but by a smaller margin of 55 percent versus 45 percent.

Most of the survey was carried out March 1 to 5, with an update with a sample of 1,000 people on March 6 and 7 to take into account that Fillon faced down a rebellion in his camp to be confirmed as candidate.

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; editing by Michel Rose)

Related:

Macron consolidates lead over Le Pen in French election poll

March 9, 2017

Reuters

By Leigh Thomas and Sudip Kar-Gupta | PARIS

Emmanuel Macron’s position as favorite in France’s presidential election was boosted on Thursday by an opinion poll which showed him beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in both the first and final rounds of the two-stage contest.

The Harris Interactive poll showed Macron winning the first round with 26 percent of votes, with Le Pen taking second place on 25 percent, sending the two to a May 7 run-off where he would trounce her with a score of 65 percent.

It was the second poll in the space of a week that put the 39-year-old ahead of Le Pen in the opening round, a signal that the centrist former economy minister may be consolidating his position 45 days from leg-one of the contest.

The race remains difficult to call, however, after a string of surprises, including Socialist incumbent Francois Hollande’s decision not to seek a second-term, and shock wins in primaries for contenders the pollsters had ruled out.

Additionally, financial scandals have engulfed Le Pen and conservative Francois Fillon, who after his surprise victory in the primary of The Republicans party as recently as January the clear poll favorite to become president.

In the latest poll, Fillon, who is struggling to relaunch a campaign derailed by a judicial investigation into allegations he lavishly paid his wife for minimal work as an assistant, comes third in the first round on 20 percent.

That would eliminate the erstwhile frontrunner. Were he to catch up in the weeks ahead and secure a place in the run-off versus Le Pen, the 63-year-old former prime minister would also beat her with a score of 59 percent.

For graphic on ‘French Presidential Election’ click: tinyurl.com/gskm7us

LE PEN SLIPPAGE

In both second-round scenarios, the margin by which Le Pen loses is wider than in some recent polls.

Le Pen’s campaign head, David Rachline, dismissed Thursday’s poll news, saying in reference to round one: “The reality right now is that Marine (Le Pen) is in front in almost all polls .”

While Le Pen’s score was unchanged from the last time the Harris poll was conducted two weeks ago, Macron’s surged six percentage points. In that period he unveiled his campaign manifesto and veteran centrist Francois Bayrou gave him his support.

The latest Harris survey, conducted on March 6-8 with a sample of 4,932 voters, also showed that while Macron voters were still the most undecided among those backing leading candidates, the proportion who were sure they would vote for him had risen by 10 percentage points to 59 percent.

The publication on Thursday coincided with the release of a research note from Credit Suisse bank that said the risk of a win for Le Pen, who wants to restore the French franc currency, was exaggerated.

Credit Suisse equity strategists raised their recommendation on investment in French equities – in technical jargon to “small overweight” from a lesser “benchmark”, partly on a belief that Le Pen would lose.

“We think the risk of a Le Pen victory is overestimated,” they wrote. “The 30 percent chance priced in betting markets is too high in our view,” they added.

(Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus and Toby Chopra)