Macron clings on to lead in tense French election race

Le Pen, who has been pressing home her core message on stopping immigration in the past week, dropped by 2.5 percentage points to 22.5 percent of voting intentions compared with early April, and Macron fell 2 percentage points to 23 percent in the first round, Cevipof said.

She said that "it's time to put back France in order", using one of her campaign's mantras.

Officials gave no indication of who the men had been targeting, but the campaign team of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen linked the arrests to her planned campaign visit to the city on Wednesday.

The French presidential election will kick off on Sunday with its first round, and Last Week Tonight's John Oliver dedicated a lengthy and hilarious segment to the issue, urging the French population to come out and vote, especially in the second round, to avoid a potentially disastrous outcome for the country.

"I worked five years with Francois Fillon, he was my prime minister, I know we can trust him", he said.

The first round of France's election is set for Sunday.

Agents from the French domestic security agency, backed by elite police units, conducted the arrests. "We are mobilized everywhere in France to ensure the safety of the French and the presidential candidates".

Macron, an independent centrist considered one of the front-runners of the vote, said in a written statement: "This event serves as reminders that the terrorist threat is still very high on our territory".

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said both had criminal records, and were suspected of planning "an imminent, violent act on French soil, though we don't know precisely the day, the target or targets".

The economy is front and center for the candidates, and Macron again pledged Tuesday to redesign famously complex work laws he said are holding back employment.

Macron, who has never held elected office, is running without the backing of an established party and claims to be neither of the right nor the left.

Reacting to Le Pen's refusal to appear on France's TF1 television channel on Tuesday unless the EU's yellow-starred blue flag was removed, the Commission tweeted: "Proud of our flag, a symbol of unity, solidarity and harmony between the people of Europe".

Macron would win a head-to-head contest against National Front chief Le Pen, the poll showed.

  • Leroy Wright