French Socialist candidate holding Paris rally

French Socialist candidate holding Paris rally

"We must first show our solidarity with the police", conservative candidate Francois Fillon told the France 2 show, after saying he would cancel a trip to the Alps on Friday. Hamon, the Socialist, trailed in fifth.

French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon is holding a rally and concert in Paris four days before a vote likely to devastate his once-powerful party.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who has dominated the campaign with her anti-immigration, anti-EU proposals, is appealing to her electoral base in the hopes of maintaining a shot at the run-off.

French presidential election candidate for the En Marche! movement Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers a speech during a campaign meeting in Nantes, on April 19, 2017.

The possibility of a second round choice between extremist candidates - the election of either of whom would set France on a collision course with Brussels and Berlin - is clearly worrying French corporate bosses.

However, they also show Le Pen losing in the run-off whoever she faces, as many voters would rally behind her opponent simply to keep the far-right out of the presidency.

French voters have so far been more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, polls show, though analysts warn this would change quickly in the event of bloodshed.

Radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon opened with sharp criticism of the EU.

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But while Melenchon doesn't want to abandon the euro, he wants to renegotiate European Union treaties and to ditch the Berlin-backed Stability and Growth Pact that limits the size of deficits that EU governments are allowed to run.

The months-long French campaign seemed to grow ever weirder and more uncertain as polling day approached.

A jobs-for-the-family financial scandal has punctured the campaign of one-time front-runner Francois Fillon and fueled the raging distrust between voters and their elected representatives. A state of emergency has been in place since 2015. Only the two top-getters will advance to the runoff on May 7.

"It's complicated", real estate agent Felix Lenglin said during his lunch-time break in a Paris park. "We have to stop being naive".

Strategists at Citi, however, believe the first round is so close to call that the French election now represents a "volcano" risk for markets, with the "nightmare" scenario being Le Pen facing Melenchon in the second round.

"You don't seek votes on the backs of dead people".

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". She wants an in-out referendum on France's European Union membership, a new French franc to replace the common euro currency, and to reimpose French borders to staunch what she describes as out-of-control immigration.

Until now, Le Pen had struggled to get the campaign to focus on her party's trademark tough security and immigration stance. However, she has recently lost the leader's edge in polls.

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