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21.04.2017 16:58 News >> Terror Attack Overshadows French Election

Terror Attack Overshadows French Election

Just two days from the first round of the French presidential election four of the 11 candidates are being tipped to make it to the final run-off on May 7.

However, campaigning has been overshadowed by Thursday's terrorist shooting in Paris, in which a police officer and the gunman both died.

According to a survey released by Elabe on Friday morning, the centrist, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron could lead the first-round voting on Sunday with 24 percent, closely followed by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen with 21.5 percent.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon came third with 20 percent and far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon came fourth with 19.5 percent.

The candidate of the struggling ruling Socialist Party, Benoit Hamon, already seems to be out of the race.

However, all recent polls have shown that this election is too close to call with the four frontrunners representing opposite poles, making it the most unpredictable contest in years.

- Tight race

Thursday night's terror shooting in the Champs Elysees had an immediate impact, with major candidates cancelling last-minute campaign meetings on Friday.

For Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, the answer to security, terrorism and economy issues is to block legal and illegal immigration, cease admitting refugees, say goodbye to the EU and reintroduce the franc.

The 48-year-old lawyer vowed to hold a national referendum within six months of taking office on leaving the EU and the Schengen border-free area.

Le Pen says she is against "Islamist globalization" and wants France to be a "true country" and not "a mere region of the European Union".

Ex-investment banker Macron, who founded his own political movement En Marche! (On the move) last April, portrays himself as something akin to the anti-Le Pen.

He says the far-right leader wants to take France back to the 1950s while he wants to pull it into the 21st century.

The 39-year-old former economy minister, who has never run for elected office before, is ardently pro-Europe and embraced a tolerant attitude toward immigrants, refugees and Muslims.

"We are not looking to adapt or reform, but to transform," Macron has vowed.

Melenchon, a former Socialist Party senator, gained ground in recent weeks and made headlines by his novel use of holograms during campaigning.

The anti-EU and anti-globalization candidate vowed to slap a 90 percent tax rate on those earning more than 20 times the median income, or about €400,000 ($578,000) and would increase government spending by €270 billion.

He said he would negotiate a French exemption from its EU deficits. If that fails, he would hold a so-called Frexit referendum to pull France out of the EU altogether.

The 65-year-old, an admirer of Lenin and Fidel Castro, said he would also have France join the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America, aka ALBA, created to link Latin America's socialist-led economies.

The Elabe poll published Friday showed if Melenchon makes it to the runoff, he would beat both Le Pen and Fillon by comfortable margins although he is seen losing to Macron 41 percent to 59 percent.

Fillon, the center-right Republican candidate -- who was previously favorite to win the presidential race -- managed to rebound from a major scandal earlier in his campaign.

The embattled candidate is facing a probe into payments about €1 million ($1.08 million) out of public funds to his wife and two of his children for working as a parliamentary assistant and legal consultants, respectively.

There have been claims the jobs were fake.

The 63-year-old, who had secured a landslide victory over Alain Juppe in the Republicans' right-wing primary last November, has presented the most radical pro-business reform program -- vowing to cut a staggering 500,000 public sector jobs over five years.

Fillon has also called for rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Syria.

During his campaign, the former premier made controversial comments regarding colonialism in Africa when he said in August France should not "be blamed just for wanting to share and spread its culture to the people of Africa".

He also claimed that France "isn't a multicultural nation."

- Abstention

Almost 30 percent of voters could abstain according to a Cevipof poll of 11,601 people for Le Monde newspaper on Thursday, adding to the uncertainty.

The abstention rate reached a record level in France's 2002 presidential election, when the then National Front leader -- Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen -- made it to the run-off before he was beaten by conservative candidate Jacques Chirac.

Security concerns, especially after yesterday's shooting, are rising the risk of abstentions. The French president, prime minister and several candidates have urged the French public not to "give in to fear" and to go vote.

The Interior Ministry earlier said 50,000 officers will be stationed at the country's 67,000 polling stations.

For this election, polling stations are due to close between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time (1800-1900GMT) for some cities, which will push the announcement of preliminary results to around 9 p.m. (2000GMT) local time, slightly later than usual as the close race is expected to complicate and delay the results.

France's new president will be formally confirmed by mid-May.

The presidential election will be followed by a two-round legislative election to select the French Parliament in June. -



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