France's Macron gets rough ride in Le Pen country

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According to the French Interior Ministry, Macron won the first round of the presidential election on Sunday with 24.01 percent of the vote, while Le Pen came in second with 21.3 percent. "I still believe that the president is the president of all French, and that one has to unite all the French", she said, explaining her decision on television station France 2.

Relief that the doomsday scene rio of far left Melenchon vs far right Le Pen failed to materialise. And yet he too ran as an anti-establishment candidate, without the support of any major political party. Her departure as party head is a conciliatory move meant to signal her commitment to nation above faction. Combined, Fillon and Hamon received over 9 million votes, votes both Macron and Ms. Le Pen will be vying for in the second round showdown, now scheduled to take place on May 7.

Since securing her berth in the runoff, Le Pen has turbo-charged her campaign with a string of appearances and statements, leaving her opponent on the back foot.

The fraud allegations have not seemed to have had much impact on Ms Le Pen's campaign, unlike Republican Francois Fillon, who lost scores of voters after it was revealed he gave his wife a fake job as a parliamentary assistant. "I am the candidate for the French Presidency", she has accounted for 68% of all bets on the next French President market and 48% of stakes placed.

Separately, cyber security firm Trend Micro has warned in a new report that Mr Macron's campaign has been targeted by what appears to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year's presidential election in the United States.

Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the National Front in 1972.

She has said during the current campaign that she would ban the wearing of kippot in public in France in order to facilitate a ban on Muslim clothes.

Ms Le Pen has vowed to keep the Amiens plant open if elected, come what may.

Le Pen will hold a rally in the Riviera city of Nice on Wednesday, a bastion of France's right that was targeted by a jihadist-inspired truck attack that killed 86 people in July.

And after the shocks of Britain's vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's unlikely ascent to the White House, analysts say a late surge by Le Pen is still possible. Fillon and Hamon have already endorsed Macron.

Seeking to capitalise on her momentum, Le Pen has attempted to distance herself from her own party, saying she was not the candidate of the National Front, only supported by it, and was in fact the "candidate of the people" fighting the "candidate of the oligarchy".

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