Sunday, 25 June, 2017

Macron Overtakes Le Pen in France as Juppe Looms Over Fillon Bid

Marine Le Pen French National Front political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election speaks during a visit to Le Mont Saint Michel France Fillon says not to quit French presidential race despite probe
Heather Davidson | 05 March, 2017, 00:36

The European Parliament has voted to lift French far-right leader Marine Le Pen's immunity from prosecution.

The move paves the way for France to pursue a case against the far right National Front leader, after prosecutors launched a probe in 2015 over the graphic pictures, which included the decapitated body of USA journalist James Foley.

It's clear that Le Pen's intent was not to antagonize Mr. Foley's family - her acceptance of their distress and distaste at the image's distribution, although widely available elsewhere online, led Le Pen to, respectfully, delete the tweet.

Earlier, Fillon had triggered a frenzy of speculation he might be about to quit when he abruptly canceled a campaign appearance at the Paris farm show without giving a reason.

But in a Harris poll conducted Thursday, only one in four respondents said they thought Fillon should stay in the race.

In announcing their departures, some said the campaign was "incompatible" with their political vision - while others expressed dismay that Mr Fillon has reneged on his promise to step down if he was charged.

A meeting will take place in Paris on Sunday, which the Fillon campaign presents as a support meeting but which has been branded by right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles as a "protest against red judges".

If found guilty, Le Pen could face up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros (US$78,800).

Bruno Jeanbart from the OpinionWay polling group told AFP that either Macron or Le Pen were best placed to benefit from Fillon's difficulties, but added: "One can imagine that it would more likely be Macron".

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After a brief debate Marine Le Pen removed the photos but the French authorities went ahead with the investigation using the propaganda of extremism as a formal charge, although the message of Le Pen's tweet meant just the opposite.

Le Pen's chief of staff, Catherine Griset, was handed a preliminary charge of receiving money through a breach of trust.

Despite the fraud, allegedly costing more than €300,000 to the European taxpayer, she has recently increased her lead in the first round polls, paradoxically mainly because of Fillon's own fake jobs accusation. If no candidate achieves a majority in April, a run-off election will take place between the top two the following month.

Centrist French Presidential Candidate Emmanuel Macron is very popular in the polls but there are also consequences for being famous.

Macron, a 39-year-old who only launched his political movement "En Marche" ("On the Move") last April, is now shown as the victor of a run-off vote on May 7.

The left-leaning weekly L'Obs, under the simple headline "Fillon's Suicide", likened being at his speech on Wednesday to attending a funeral, wondering out loud why the rightwing Republicans party continued to support the "Fillon millstone".

The 62-year-old conservative former prime minister was favourite at the turn of the year to become France's next leader after clinching the nomination for the Republicans party in November.

The lifting of Le Pen's immunity relates to this case only, and any action is unlikely to occur before the first round of voting in the French presidential election on April 23.

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