Attack overshadows last campaign day in French election first round

News 21 Apr 2017

left right The eleven French presidential election candidates take part in a special political television show entitled '15min to Convince' at the studios of French Television channel France 2 in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Martin Bureau/Pool 1/4 left right Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, attends the France 2 television special prime time political show, '15min to Convince' in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Martin Bureau/Pool 2/4 left right Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, attends the France 2 television special prime time political show, '15min to Convince' in Saint-Cloud, near Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Martin Bureau/Pool 3/4 left right Sauveur, a member of the French National Front (FN) political party pastes a poster on an official billboard for French National Front (FN) political party leader Marine Le Pen next to the poster of Emmanuel Macron (R), head of the political movement En Marche! (Onwards!), as part of the 2017 French presidential election campaign in Antibes, France, April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard 4/4 By Leigh Thomas and Marine Pennetier | PARIS

PARIS The killing overnight of a policeman in an Islamist militant attack overshadowed the last day of France's unpredictable presidential election campaign on Friday as centrist Emmanuel Macron held onto his status as frontrunner in the polls.

An Elabe survey of voter intentions taken before the shooting on the Champs Elysees shopping street in central Paris showed Macron in front and far right leader Marine Le Pen falling further behind him.

But even leaving out the potential impact on voter sentiment of the latest deadly attack in a series that has hit France in the past two years, neither was totally assured a spot in the May 7 runoff round.

Two other candidates were snapping at their heels.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday – before the shootout in which the attacker also died and two other police officers were injured.

The attack was swiftly claimed by militant Islamist group Islamic State.

Le Pen has made immigration and security a core part of her campaign.

She wants to tighten French borders controls and build more jails, and says authorities are not doing enough to protect citizens from attacks like Thursday's. Such attacks have claimed more than 230 victims in France since January 2015.

"Today fundamentalist Islam is waging war and… the measures are not being taken to limit the risks," she said on RFI radio.

Macron, who from 2014 to 2016 was economy minister in the Socialist government she has criticized repeatedly for its security record, said the solutions were not as simple as she suggested.

"There is no such thing as zero risk," he said on RTL Radio. "I hear Madame Le Pen… anyone who says that they can make it otherwise is both irresponsible and a liar," he said on RTL Radio.

In the Elabe poll, both conservative Francois Fillon and hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon were seen narrowing Macron and Le Pen's lead over them.

Provided Macron and Le Pen do make it to the second round, the former economy minister was projected to win with 65 percent against 35 percent for Le Pen, the survey for BFM TV and L'Express magazine showed.

The poll found that Macron was set to win 24 percent of the vote in the first round and Le Pen would get 21.5 percent, with his score steady from the last time it was conducted three days earlier while hers was down 1.5 percentage points.

Fillon, who has slowly clawed back some ground lost after being hit by a fake jobs scandal, saw his score in the first round rise half a percentage point to 20 percent.

Melenchon, who would hike taxes on the rich and spend 100 billion euros ($107 billion) of borrowed money on vast housebuilding and renewable energy projects, gained 1.5 points to 19.5 percent as he built further on momentum he has seen after strong performances in television debates.

If Melenchon makes it to the runoff, he is projected to beat both Le Pen and Fillon by comfortable margins although he is seen losing to Macron 41 percent to 59 percent.

The number of people surveyed who expected to definitely turn out for the first round rose to 71 percent, the highest so far during the campaign although that is nonetheless low by historical standards.

(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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