French Candidates Take Aim at Macron


“This will be my first measure: to restore national borders to the French, to regain mastery in order to know who is entering our country [in order] to fight against the danger of Islamist terrorism [and] migrants [who] come and hit us in the heart”.

With four days until Sunday's first round of the presidential election, candidates blanketed the country ahead of the nail-biting election.

Le Pen and Macron have jostled for the lead in opinion polls, with conservative candidate Francois Fillon third and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon fourth.

Pollsters forecast the most likely outcome of the first round is that centrist Emmanuel Macron will go head-to-head against far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the May 7 second round.

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The implosion of the ruling Socialist Party, with outgoing President Francois Hollande too unpopular to run again, and the stunning success of his former economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, with an upstart middle-way grassroots campaign without major party backing, threatened to dismantle postwar France's traditional left-right political divide.

Gaspard Flamant, 26, said he feared Le Pen could win.

France's internal intelligence agency had warned the main candidates of a threat, campaign officials said. However, Le Pen has lost some ground as Fillon and Melenchon closed the gap.

The possibility of a second round choice between extremist candidates - the election of either of whom would set France on a collision course with Brussels and Berlin - is clearly worrying French corporate bosses. Like her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2002, she hopes for an electoral coup by making the runoff.

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Le Pen has pressed her anti-immigration, anti-globalization message with plans to take France out of the European Union and the euro currency zone.

"The best case scenario for the euro would be a Macron-Fillon run-off, while the worst case would see Le Pen and Melenchon fighting it out in the second round", said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG, in a note.

Macron's relative lack of government experience made some voters hesitant about putting him in charge of France's nuclear arsenal, its permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council, its fight against Islamic extremism and its role as a key player in global crises.

In a BFM television interview yesterday she repeated that she would slash immigration, make it harder to get French nationality and crack down on suspected Islamists.

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But, she said, her first job as president would be to pull France out of the borderless Schengen agreement and give the nation back its borders, which she called a "sieve" for the entry of terrorists who she said travel Europe like tourists.