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Le Pen bundled out of cathedral by bodyguards amid protest

This is the moment Marine Le Pen was bundled out of the back door of a cathedral by bodyguards to avoid a jeering crowd of protesters.

The far-right candidate was quickly taken to a waiting car after hundreds of young Macron supporters campaigners gathered at the entrance to the cathedral in the northern city of Reims. 

Four new polls on Friday showed Macron on track to win 62 percent of the votes in the second round compared to 38 percent for Le Pen, his best score since nine other candidates were eliminated in the first round on April 23.

Le Pen’s hostile reception at the cathedral came hours after protesters were able to unfurl a giant campaign banner under the Eiffel Tower – despite heightened terror fears in Paris in the run-up to the presidential election. 

Although security has been boosted around French tourism sites, Greenpeace activists strung up a banner saying ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ and ‘#resist’ in protest at the programme of Marine Le Pen.

Paris police admitted the stunt, which saw protesters hanging from ropes from the tower’s arch, revealed ‘flaws’ in the monument’s security at a time when terror fears remain high. 

Separately, police today arrested a ‘radicalised’ man in the city of Evreux in circumstances that were not immediately clear but which, judicial sources said, were linked to a counter-terrorist inquiry.

Just two days before Le Pen and her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron face a divisive run-off police called a meeting with city officials and the company operating the monument to ‘assess the facts, learn and adapt’. 

The incident revealed ‘flaws in the monument’s security programme,’ Paris police said in a statement.

France is on high alert after a string of jihadist attacks in the past two years that have killed over 230 people.

Twelve people were arrested over the stunt in which a safety net was also damaged.

The activists hung the banner from an arch connecting two legs of the 1,063ft Iron Lady, the symbol of Paris.

Paris officials announced in February plans to protect visitors by erecting bulletproof glass walls at the northern and southern ends of the monument area.

The glass walls are intended to prevent individuals or vehicles storming the site visited by six million people each year, making it the world’s most visited paying monument.

Greenpeace France head Jean-Francois Julliard told reporters the protest was intended as ‘a warning against Marine Le Pen’s programme and the dangers it poses for NGOs and others.’

QUARTER OF FRENCH VOTERS TO ABSTAIN, POLL WARNS

A quarter of the French electorate is due to abstain in the presidential runoff on Sunday, many of them left-wing voters disappointed after their candidates missed reaching the runoff, according to a poll by Odoxa.

The projected abstention rate would be the second-worst for a presidential election runoff since 1965, underscoring the disillusionment of many voters at the choice between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The turnout rate for the first round of the election was close to 78 per cent, according to the interior ministry.

The poll for franceinfo, released on Friday, showed 69 per cent of abstaining voters will do so reluctantly, refusing to chose between Macron and Le Pen. Many voted for the more leftist candidates eliminated in the first round of voting on April 23.

A third of the supporters of defeated far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who placed fourth in the first round, said they were evenly opposed to both Macron and Le Pen, according to the poll.

It also showed that voters found Macron more convincing than Le Pen in the acrimonious televised debate on Wednesday evening, confirming the general impression conveyed in earlier polls and reinforcing Macron’s status as the favourite to win on Sunday

The Odoxa poll was carried out online on Thursday among 998 people.

‘Liberty, equality, fraternity: it is vital to defend these values which are particularly threatened by the National Front,’ Julliard said, referring to Le Pen’s party.

Julliard said Greenpeace was concerned about the ‘resurgence of nationalism’ around the world, citing Turkey and Hungary as examples of countries where the right to protest had been curtailed.

Defending basic rights ‘is critical to continuing our environmental struggle,’ he added. 

Earlier Marine Le Pen warned of an ‘explosion of anger’ in France as she and presidential enter the final day of a bitter election campaign.

The far-right leader said her fury during an acrimonious televised debate with the centrist candidate was a reflection of the anger she sees throughout the country. 

BRUSSELS ‘CROSSES ITS FINGERS’ FOR MACRON IN BREAK WITH PROTOCOL

Brussels is 'crossing its fingers' for a victory for Emmanuel Macron

Brussels is 'crossing its fingers' for a victory for Emmanuel Macron

Brussels is ‘crossing its fingers’ for a victory for Emmanuel Macron after EU officials broke with protocol to support the centrist French presidential candidate.

The EU has pinned its hopes on pro-European Macron beating the eurosceptic Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s French run-off vote.

A host of top Brussels figures led by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker have broken with their usual protocol of not interfering in national elections and have openly backed the centrist former banker.

In the European Union’s corridors of power, Macron is seen as more than just a frontline defence against populism as seen with Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump in the US.

To many, the 39-year-old represents a breath of fresh air that could offer the embattled bloc a sorely needed chance to push ahead with unifying new projects after years of crisis.

‘We are crossing our fingers,’ one senior EU official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Macron’s gruelling televised debate with Le Pen on Wednesday was ‘watched widely’ at the highest levels of the European institutions, ‘including by non-French colleagues’, the EU official said.

‘Of course we see Macron in a positive way. We have the feeling that we can work with Macron because his project isn’t to destroy the EU as with Le Pen,’ the official added.

In the last day of campaigning before Sunday’s presidential vote, Le Pen acknowledged the testy debate between her and Emmanuel Macron.

‘My words were nothing but the reflection of the anger that will explode in this country,’ she told RTL radio on Friday. 

She criticised Macron as the candidate of the elite and said the French have had enough of their political and economic situation.

In recent years, Le Pen has tried to soften the profile of the National Front party founded by her father. The party has long been accused of racism and anti-Semitism.

MACRON TO SUE OVER ‘KREMLIN SMEARS’

Emmanuel Macron has filed a legal complaint after his far-right rival Marine Le Pen accused him of holding money in a tax haven.

The 39-year-old ex-economy minister described his rival’s insinuation as ‘defamation’ and after his complaint, French prosecutors launched a probe Thursday into who started the rumour.

Macron’s campaign team called it a ‘textbook case’ of ‘fake news’, saying it was spread on Twitter by accounts close to Kremlin-friendly news sites like Sputnik and RT as well as supporters of US President Donald Trump.

Miss Le Pen, 48, later admitted to French television channel BFMTV that she had no evidence to back up her comments but had read about the allegations. It came after fake documents purporting to relate to overseas bank accounts were shared on social media.

But this morning, Macron extended his lead in the polls over his rival on what is the final day of a tumultuous election campaign that has turned the country’s politics upside down.

The election is seen as the most important in France for decades with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and France’s place in the world at stake.

Le Pen would close borders and quit the euro currency, while Macron, who has never held elected office, wants closer European cooperation and an open economy.

According to four polls, Macron will get 62 per cent of the votes in the second round compared to 38 per cent for Le Pen, an increase of three points for the centrist candidate compared to his projected score in the last Elabe poll.

The showing is Macron’s best in a voting survey by a major polling organisation since nine other candidates were eliminated in the first round on April 23.

The surveys were carried out after a rancorous final televised debate between the two contenders on Wednesday, which Macron was seen as having won by French viewers, according to two recent polls.

A separate poll by Odoxa said a quarter of the French electorate was likely to abstain in Sunday’s vote, many of them left-wing voters disappointed after their candidates missed reaching the runoff.

The projected abstention rate would be the second-worst for a presidential election runoff since 1965, underscoring the disillusionment of many voters at the choice they now face.

The turnout rate for the first round of the election was close to 78 percent, according to the interior ministry.

The poll for Franceinfo radio showed 69 percent of abstaining voters will do so reluctantly, refusing to choose between Macron and Le Pen. 

Many voted for the more leftist candidates eliminated in the first round.

A third of the supporters of defeated far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who placed fourth in the first round, said they were evenly opposed to Macron and Le Pen, according to the poll.

It also showed that voters found Macron more convincing than Le Pen in Wednesday’s televised debate, confirming the general impression conveyed in earlier polls and reinforcing Macron’s status as the favourite to win on Sunday.

Macron, the runaway favourite to become France’s new president will celebrate his expected triumph at the world famous Louvre museum, it emerged today. 

Le Pen’s National Front party has – significantly- not even announced where their candidate will be after polls close on Sunday evening following the second and final round of voting.

PETE DOHERTY URGES FRANCE TO REJECT ‘SHADOW AT THE GATE’ – BUT WILL THEY LISTEN TO EX-JAILBIRD SINGER?

Singer Pete Doherty described Marine Le Pen as ‘a shadow at the gate’ as he joined French artists and students in a rally against racism.  

The Babyshambles star warned that the French far-right presidential candidate’s anti-immigration, closed-borders position is ‘not some distant threat’.

The concert, which saw some 30 performers and dozens of anti-racism and other groups gather at the Place de la Republique in Paris on Thursday night, was part-organised by several French youth organisations.

The crowd held signs reading ‘Multicoloured people = Happy France’ and ‘No borders, no nations’. 

One of Mr Macron’s aides said: ‘The Louvre will be the venue for our election night party in case of victory.’

Crowds will gather on the esplanade by the glass pyramid at the centre of the historic complex, which dates back to the 12th Century, and was once the home of French Royalty.

En Marche! (On the Move) – Mr Macron’s political movement – had originally wanted to use the Champs de Mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower, but this was turned down.

The Champs is at the centre of Paris’s Olympic bid for 2024, and there were fears that thousands of people would destroy the grass lawns.

In contrast, the area around the Louvre is cobbled or concreted, and always full of people.

The museum, which contains masterpieces including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, is the biggest in the world, and welcomes more than 7million visitors a year.

Previous new presidents have chosen more modest venues, such as restaurants or campaign headquarters.

 

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