French race tightens nine days to polling day

Opinion polls have put Le Pen in first or second place in the first round of voting on April 23, although her three main rivals are now close enough for any two of the four to go through to the runoff.

But Le Pen, who has made terrorism and immigration key platforms of her campaign, invoked a U.S. role as she reiterated her appeal for what she called "a big coalition of countries which fight Muslim fundamentalism in which there will be of course the U.S., Russia, countries like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Chad".

The slight dip in Le Pen's poll numbers came as French prosecutors said they had petitioned the European Parliament to lift her immunity so that she can be prosecuted over an expenses scandal.

"Undeniably he is in contradiction with the commitments he had made", Le Pen said Friday during an interview with France Info radio.

While polls still show Le Pen and centrist independent Emmanuel Macron leading the field on around 22-24 percent each, their support is slipping, allowing radical Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and Fillon to narrow the gap with 18-20 percent each.

Surveys show Le Pen would be beaten by any of the other three main contenders at this point but analysts have warned of a possible upset, after Britain's shock vote to quit the European Union and Donald Trump's election in the United States, both of which pollsters failed to predict.

Were he to qualify for the second round on May 7, Macron is still seen winning whoever his opponent is, but the most striking trend of the past days has been Melenchon's sharp rise in first round voting intentions since performing well in two TV debates in late March and early April. Saou is being investigated by the party's internal ethics committee.

That would be a huge boost to Le Pen. According to Politico, 42% of Melenchon's supporters say they won't vote in the second round of the presidential election if Melenchon doesn't make it.

Charles Hourcade, a former assistant to Boutont who once worked as a graphic designer at the FN's headquarters, was also charged over the affair.

The EU's anti-fraud agency Olaf asked Ms Le Pen and five other National Front members to repay salaries of people it considered to be bogus assistants.

Paris. The European Union (EU) is facing catastrophe as anti-Brussels parties gain popularity in the French Presidential election, writes Daily Express.

Le Pen's criticism comes as other nationalist politicians around the world have taken issue with Trump's recent policy changes.

The pictures triggered an investigation for "dissemination of violent images".



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