French candidates boost security ahead of tense vote

Two Frenchmen arrested in Marseille on Tuesday planned an "imminent and violent attack" ahead of the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, France's interior minister said.

The two men, French nationals born in 1987 and 1993, were arrested in the port city of Marseille, according to Matthias Fekl, interior minister.

They allegedly meant to commit an attack "on French soil in the very near future, that is to say in the next few days", he said.

Guns and explosives were reportedly found during the search at the Rue de Crimee. Later in the day, soldiers and police were still sealing off a road where one of the men was arrested.

Scuffles between scores of opponents of Le Pen's anti-immigration National Front party and riot police broke out ahead of her rally, delaying its start.

Candidates on the far right have used their campaigns to appeal to voters traumatised by IS-inspired attacks that have killed at least 235 people in France since January 2015, the largest casualty rate of any Western country. We received their photos and security of the candidates.

Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old pro-European candidate appears to have the best chance of beating Le Pen in a run-off.

But radical leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative ex-premier Francois Fillon have gained ground, transforming the election into a tight four-way race.

"There has been a real tightening of the race with four candidates between 19 per cent and 23 per cent".

Police have refused to identify their proposed target but Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen have both been named by media as potential victims, with sources saying their personal security teams were warned several days ago.

Le Pen finds herself in second place with 22.5 percent's support, according to an Ifop poll released Monday.

A short time later, a second protester was also removed from the event after she started shouting during Le Pen's speech.

"You'll see, we'll soon stuff your oligarchic rag in the cupboard", Le Pen's second-in-command, Florian Philippot said of the European Union flag in a message on Twitter.

She would be beaten by any of the three others in a run-off, polls have repeatedly shown.

Fillon told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that Le Pen's moratorium idea was nonsensical, and that while numbers should come down, the key was to impose the country's values and identity.

Fillon has been charged over allegations he gave his wife Penelope a fictional job as his parliamentary assistant for which she earned almost 680,000 euros (S$1 million) in public money.

  • Leroy Wright