French police have searched the headquarters of Marine Le Pen’s National Front party in western Paris.
FN officials have told the Reuters agency the search is connected to an inquiry into the alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay parliamentary assistants.
“It looks on the face of it like a media operation whose goal is to disturb the course of the presidential campaign,” the National Front said in a statement.
French investigators probing alleged fake jobs scam by far-right National Front raid group's headquarters https://t.co/NLUzsXs0aA— AFP news agency (@AFP) February 20, 2017
What is the inquiry about?
The European Parliament has said that, in her role as French National Front leader, Le Pen had, during the 2011-12 legislature, paid party staff with EU funds.
Parliament rules say the funds should only be used to pay EU lawmakers’ assistants.
Where was Le Pen while this was happening?
After meeting Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut, she described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as “the only viable solution” for preventing ISIL from taking power in Syria.
“I explained clearly that…Bashar al-Assad was obviously today a much more reassuring solution for France than ISIL would be if it came to power in Syria, as it has partially taken power in Libya after the disappearance of (Muammar) Gaddafi,” Le Pen told journalists.
Far-right French leader meets Aoun at start of Beirut visit – The far-right French leader Marine Le Pen Monday … https://t.co/1ftXqHgME3— Lebanon observer (@LebanonObserve) February 20, 2017
France’s election:the latest
Polls show Le Pen has gained some ground on her main election rivals, the independent Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon.
However, it is predicted she will still lose to either of them in the May 7 runoff for the presidency.
The Opinionway poll:
The poll suggests that Le Pen, with a predicted score of 27%, will easily beat her four main rivals and win the first round of the election on April 23.
She will move through to the two-way runoff against either Macron or Fillon.
In a straight fight with Macron, the poll suggests she would go down by 42% against his 58%.
Against Fillon, it is predicted she would lose with 44% to his 56.
French government bond yields rose sharply on news of the poll, reflecting investors’ apprehension over Le Pen’s proposals to quit the eurozone, hold a referendum on EU membership and tax imports and the job contracts of foreigners.
Fillon or Macron?
With nine weeks to go to the first round, it is still not clear whether Macron, a centrist, or Fillon, a former conservative prime minister, would go through to the knockout against Le Pen.
The two men are tied on 20% each in the first round, according to the Opionways poll.
Marine Le Pen’s support is more regionally polarized than that of Macron/Fillon— Adam Tooze (@adam_tooze) February 20, 2017
What Fillon says
The 62-year-old preaches radical cost-cuttig policies in the public sector to launch a recovery.
He was the clear frontrunner until a scandal broke over salaries paid to his wife and two of his children from public funds for questionable amounts of work.
Fillon has denied they were paid for “fake jobs”.
He has vowed to fight on, despite plunging ratings and the threat of being placed under formal investigation by the financial police. They have launched an inquiry.
Francois Fillon faces calls to quit from HISOWNPARTY as Marine Le Pen leads the polls https://t.co/NfKYCkilQz— Voice of Europe (@V_of_Europe) February 15, 2017
What Macron says
Analysts note that Macron is a political novice who has never held elected office.
He has pulled in huge crowds at rallies, saying he seeks to transcend the classic left-right divide in French politics.
However, he sparked an outcry at home last week which some think may have dented his support.
During a trip to Algeria he described France’s colonial past – still a divisive issue 50 years after the war in Algeria – as “a crime against humanity”.
What about the other candidates?
The election run-up has produced a series of surprises.
Several big names have fallen off the radar.
The polls predict little chance of a Socialist revival in time for the election, given the poor record of President Francois Hollande’s five years in office and his decision not to run again.
Moves late last week to form an election deal between the Socialists, who have elected left-winger Benoit Hamon as their candidate, and the far-left veteran campaigner Jean Luc Melenchon appear to have fizzled out.
Melenchon is standing as an independent. “I have no intention of hitching myself to a hearse,” he said at the weekend.
“I won’t run after Jean Luc Melenchon. I don’t run after anyone,” Hamon retorted.