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By Henry Samuel, Paris,
The Telegraph, UK,
24 April 2017

How Champs Elysees attack could swing the French presidential election

With the motives of the Champs-Elysees gunman considered terror-related, the timing just three days before the first round of the French presidential elections and during a prime time TV "debate" between all 11 official candidates clearly suggests that extremists are seeking to influence the tone of the debate - and perhaps its outcome.

If that was the aim, it was a success, as two candidates - Marine Le Pen, the far-Right Front National leader, and conservative Francois Fillon - cancelled visits on Friday - the final day of the campaign.

As they learned of the attack while on air, all the runners adapted their conclusions to pledge to protect the French. "Enough of laxism, enough of naivety," said Ms Le Pen in hers. "The fight against terrorism must be the absolute priority of the next French president," said Mr Fillon, who proposed arresting all suspects on an "S" watch list, like the gunman.

With polls suggesting the race is incredibly tight between the top four candidates, many analysts have warned that even at last-minute, something could affect the final result.

Although polls suggest she is on track to come in the top two of Sunday`s first round vote, along with Mr Macron, political analysts have suggested that Ms Le Pen has been losing steam in recent days and that her campaign has failed to capitalise on early leads.

She clearly hoped to claw back support after this latest attack by insisting that France requires a more authoritarian regime. She commands significant support from within the French police, which lost an officer on Thursday night.

But while some suggest the Champs Elysees attack could boost her standing, previous terror attacks have not resulted in lasting gains for the far-Right.

In 2015, the FN came top in the first round of regional elections, just three weeks after the Paris attacks. Its score was up to three per cent higher than the previous nationwide elections. But it failed to win any regions in the second round.

It remains to be seen whether the shooting will be politically damaging for Mr Macron, the inexperienced ex-economy minister, whose Achilles heel is considered to be security. Critics have sought to portray him as a soft touch.

Mr Macron was among the first candidates to react to the attack during last night`s TV show, offering condolences to the slain policeman`s family and warning that France would have to live with the terror threat "for years to come".


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