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French election 2017: Who are the candidates?

French

MAR 20, (DNA) – Eleven candidates have joined the race for the French presidency, and the campaign is now into its final stages ahead of the election on 23 April.

There are three front-runners and as none are likely to secure an outright majority, a run-off between the two candidates is now expected on 7 May.

For the first time in 15 years, the far-right National Front has a realistic chance of winning the race under Marine Le Pen. Centrist Emmanuel Macron is challenging her in the opinion polls after the centre-right Republican Francois Fillon was derailed by an investigation into misuse of public funds.

For the first time in modern French history, the incumbent – Socialist President Francois Hollande – is not running for a second term because of poor poll ratings.

She took over the FN leadership from her father in January 2011 and came third in presidential elections the following year. She brought the party big electoral gains in regional elections in late 2015.

Opinion polls suggest she is neck and neck with Emmanuel Macron but unlikely to defeat him in the second round in May.

The Marine Le Pen story

In 2010, before being elected leader, Marine Le Pen compared Muslims praying in the street to the German occupation. Now she has softened her tone and the FN has also tried to build bridges with the Jewish community.

Meanwhile other nationalist parties – in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere – have emerged, making the FN much less of a French exception.

Hugh Schofield: Is France’s National Front leader far-right?

Marine Le Pen, 48, trained as a lawyer and headed the FN’s legal department. After years of fighting and losing French parliamentary elections, she was elected to the European Parliament in 2004 and remains an MEP, representing North-West France.

Marine Le Pen is twice divorced with three children, and lives in the western suburbs of Paris.

What she wants:

  • Negotiation with Brussels on a new EU, followed by a referendum
  • “Automatic” expulsion of illegal immigrants and legal immigration cut to 10,000 per year
  • “Extremist” mosques closed and priority to French nationals in social housing
  • Retirement age fixed at 60 and 35-hour week assured





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