Macron, Le Pen edge further ahead in poll

"With Mr Macron, it would be Islamism on the move", Le Pen, 48, said on Saturday in response to revelations that one of Macron's top campaigners had criticised the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly for publishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

Hundreds of riot police in full gear were posted around the rally's site.

The crowd stood, cheered and chanted, "On est chez nous", or "We are in our land". Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is not too far behind with 20 percent, while conservative Francois Fillon has 19 percent.

That is rattling markets and prompting attacks from his rivals.

Commemorating the World War I battle of Chemin des Dames in northern France, Hollande credited Europe with "having protected us against war".

The 65-year-old political veteran, who leads La France Insoumise (Unbowed France), has unnerved some of the other candidates by surging from behind in the final stages of the campaign and threatening to reach the second round. My opponents from all sides have tried only one thing: "to finish me off rather than debate", Mr Fillon told the crowd.

The polls had also shown Ms Le Pen virtually assured of a place in the May 7 vote but Mr Melenchon and the conservative Mr Fillon have narrowed the gap with her and Mr Macron to about three points, blowing the race wide open.

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The fast-growing score of Communist-backed Melenchon - and the possibility he could square off against Le Pen in the May 7 decider - has sparked alarm over the future of the European Union as both advocate leaving the bloc. "That's right", Oliver said.

A poster for independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is displayed in Paris, France, Monday, April 17, 2017.

The top two candidates will go up against each other in a run-off election May 7.

"The fate of Europe rests in the hands of a country that looks at snails and says 'I have got to get you in my mouth, '" Oliver said.

A recent surge in the polls for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has observers worrying that Le Pen's strongest opponent, Emanual Macron, could be eliminated before the second round. Conservative candidate Francois Fillon took his tough-on-security campaign to the southern French city of Nice, which was scarred by a deadly truck attack past year that killed 86 people.

The race is being watched internationally as an important gauge of populist sentiment, captured notably by Le Pen, with her nationalist program presented under the slogan "In the Name of the People". Therefore, suddenly Le Pen will be deemed a more moderate candidate in some quarters outside of issues related to mass immigration and deporting illegals. Macron also paints himself as an anti-establishment figure - seeking to bury the traditional left-right spectrum that has governed France for decades.

Front-runner Macron, a former economy minister and investment banker who has attempted to break the mould of French politics by launching a new centrist party, opted for a lower-profile visit in the Paris area on Sunday to people with difficulties finding housing.

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