Le Pen aide at center of new French 'fake job' probe

With less than three weeks before the first-round of the French presidential elections, Le Pen and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron have been running in a virtual tie in polls for the initial ballot.

Just 19 days before the election, polls suggest that Macron is the favourite candidate to win, and this was supported by a snap survey after the debate that placed him as the second most convincing performer in the four-hour marathon of 11 candidates.

Unlike the first debate, Tuesday's featured all of the candidates and not just the top five, prompting fears it could become unwieldy.

To channel such discontent away from the populist right of Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron founded a new political party, En Marche! which has emerged as the real contender of Marine Le Pen.

The candidate facing the most scrutiny however is expected to be Macron, as he is tipped to clinch final victory in a May 7 run-off against Le Pen.

Voting in the first round of the election is set for April 23 with a runoff between the two leading candidates on May 7.

It was another good night for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, who has been gaining in popularity.

Macron was seen winning the presidency 62 per cent to Le Pen's 38 per cent, a margin that was down from 65 per cent to 35 per cent two weeks ago.

For months Melenchon limped behind in fifth place, his role apparently limited to siphoning off votes from the beleaguered Socialist party in the first round of the presidential vote - until a decisive change in sentiment last month.

The comment appeared to be a swipe at Le Pen's efforts to clean up the image of the party her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded and make it more palatable to mainstream voters.

France's first debate on March 20 was followed by more than 10 million French citizens. "For someone who is anti-European, it doesn't bother you to nick from EU coffers", he said - referring to a probe into whether the MEP illicitly paid FN members with European parliament funds.

Hamon, the Socialist candidate, said he was among those who "bet on the European project", as opposed to those who want to abandon it.

Le Pen put in a steady performance under fire, warning about the closure of factories, and the danger of Islamists and immigrants eroding France's national identity. We workers, we have to go when called, we do not have worker immunity, sorry.

The latest chapter in the seemingly never-ending drama that is the French presidential campaign brought yet more fireworks Tuesday as candidates clashed on stage in the latest televised debate.

Both Mr Fillon and Ms Le Pen deny wrongdoing and say they will be able to demonstrate their innocence in a court of law.

Over the years he has forged a reputation as an often aggressive anti-establishment figure who shares economic policies with Le Pen, while rejecting her hardline rhetoric on immigration and Islam.

He concluded by saying that if voters did not want the "the chaos proposed" by Le Pen or "the continuity" represented by Macron, then they should vote for him.

  • Leroy Wright