Macron campaign hit by 'significant' data leak hours before French poll

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Leading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign said on Friday it had been the target of a "massive" computer hack that dumped its campaign emails online barely 24 hours before voters choose between the centrist and his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen. (Though it likely won't beat Le Pen's father's 64-point loss in 2002.) Another good sign for Macron: The polls in the first round of presidential voting were "remarkably" accurate, predicting the top four candidates within a point.

The commission urged French media not to publish the documents, warning that some of them were "probably" fake.

Bound by strict election rules that ban campaigning on the day before the vote, neither he nor his allies were able to respond further as allegations were circulated on social media by his opponents in France and overseas.

The first French territory to vote Saturday was Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago near Newfoundland, where voters came dressed in scarves and jackets to ward off the chilly weather.

Voting stations opened across mainland France at 8am (6am GMT) under the watch of 50,000 security forces guarding against extremist attacks.

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"Movement has been the victim of a massive and coordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information".

En Marche! said the documents released online only showed the normal functioning of a presidential campaign, but authentic documents had been mixed on social media with "false documents" to sow "doubt and misinformation".

In a cursory look at the leaked documents, they appear to be largely mundane day-to-day communications, with a few items so out of character that they might be fakes.

The data leak emerged as polls predicted Macron was on course for a comfortable victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's election, with the last surveys showing his lead widening to around 62 percent to 38.

Yet Le Pen posted her party's biggest-ever vote in the first ballot, highlighting dissatisfaction by conquering the depressed towns of industrial decline in the north and east, and the conservative heartlands of the south. France's unemployment rate remains stuck at 10 percent, roughly double the levels in the United Kingdom and Germany - a major challenge to the next president. The future of the European Union may hinge on the vote, also seen as a test for global populism. The leak began just before the blackout descended at midnight, in theatrical timing befitting the dramatic campaign.

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It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but Macron's political movement said in a statement the hack was an attempt to destabilise democracy and to damage the party.

The campaign also made a link to what happened to Hillary Clinton's campaign in the 2016 USA presidential election.

The Le Pen campaign told the commission on Friday night that electoral administrators in several regions, including in Ardeche, Savoie, and the Loire, had found Le Pen ballots that had been "systematically torn up", the AP writes.

The presidential campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and candidates insulting each other on national television - a reflection of the widespread public disaffection with politics. Shocked viewers quickly labeled the event the worst election debate in French presidential history, with Le Pen accusing Macron of having an off-shore bank account on Nevis Island.

February 5 - Far-right leader Marine Le Pen unveils 144-point manifesto, formally launching her campaign. The ministry said 28 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, compared with a half-day tally of 31 percent five years ago.

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Calling this defamation, Macron filed suit against Le Pen on Thursday for the accusations. They fear her party's racist past, while worrying that his platform would demolish job protections for workers.

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