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French voters are going to the polls to choose their next president, amid high security following a deadly attack on Champs Elysees three days ago.

About 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers are being deployed across France to secure polling.

Eleven candidates are vying to be France’s next president, with leading candidates spanning the political spectrum from far-left to far-right.

The two with the most votes will go to a run-off round in a fortnight’s time.

Polling stations in France opened at 08:00 local time, although some overseas territories began the voting on April 22. Voting ends at 20:00, with exit polls expected quickly afterwards.

Four candidates are currently seen as being within reach of the presidency: conservative François Fillon, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Image source France24

The candidates have created plenty of debate in France, all offering dramatically different visions of Europe, immigration, the economy and French identity.

Extra security measures are in place on polling day after Karim Cheurfi, a convicted criminal, shot dead a police officer on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Karim Cheurfi was killed by security forces and a note defending ISIS was found near his body.

National security had been one of the main talking points during the campaign, but candidates have been accused of exploiting the most recent attack for political gains.

The race between the leading contenders is considered too close to call.

However, no candidate is expected to get the 50% of votes required for an outright win.

A second round between the top two will be held on May 7.

Francois Fillon is the only one among the leading contenders from an established party of government.

Benoît Hamon, the socialist candidate from the same party as the current president, is seen as out of the running.

President François Hollande is not seeking a second term, and is the first French president in modern history not to do so.

Penelope Fillon, the wife of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, has been placed under formal investigation amid the continuing “fake jobs” inquiry.

She spent the day being questioned by magistrates.

Francois Fillon was placed under formal investigation earlier this month.

The center-right candidate is accused of paying hundreds of thousands of euros to his family for work they did not do. Francois Fillon and his Welsh-born wife deny any wrongdoing.

Until recently, Francois Fillon was the favorite to win the elections, which will be held in two stages in April and May.

Image source Wikimedia

However, the former prime minister has now slipped behind far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron in the race to become president.

Francois Fillon, 63, faces accusations that he arranged for his wife to be paid public money for work as his parliamentary assistant amid claims that: the work she did was trivial or non-existent; Penelope Fillon had no parliamentary pass; few were aware Penelope Fillon was a member of Francois Fillon’s staff; misleading information was included on timesheets.

Francois Fillon is also being investigated over payments to his two children, Marie and Charles, when he was a senator. He has said his children were paid as lawyers for specific tasks, but neither was a qualified lawyer at the time.

In all, Francois Fillon is suspected of diverting public funds, complicity in misappropriating funds, receiving the funds and not declaring assets fully.

There are also questions about a job Penelope Fillon had at a literary magazine owned by a billionaire friend of the couple, for which she allegedly did little or no actual work.

Penelope Fillon, the wife of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, has insisted that she did carry out parliamentary work for her husband, for which she was paid.

Penelope Fillon told French magazine Journal du Dimanche, rejecting allegations she was paid without actually working: “He needed someone that carried out his tasks.”

As calls mount for Francois Fillon to quit, he is due to attend a big rally near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on March 5.

His Republican party has brought forward crisis talks to March 6.

The former prime minister has seen his popularity slip in opinion polls.

Penelope Fillon told the magazine: “If it hadn’t been me, he would have paid someone else to do it, so we decided that it would be me.

“Everything was legal and declared.”

Image source Wikimedia

Penelope Fillon said that she has repeatedly told her husband to “go all the way” but said that the final decision would be down to him.

She urged Francois Fillon’s supporters to get behind him in his presidential campaign and not to give up.

Speaking to supporters in Paris on March 4 as he marked his 63rd birthday, Francois Fillon said that those attacking him over his presidential bid were “trying to kill a desire for change”.

The latest opinion polls suggest that he would be eliminated in the first round of presidential election voting on April 23, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen and liberal Emmanuel Macron likely to progress to contest the election run-off on May 7.

A survey published in Journal du Dimanche suggests that 71% of those polled want Francois Fillon to step down.

In another blow to Francois Fillon’s campaign, his spokesman announced on March 3 that he was quitting.

Thierry Solere’s resignation is one of a slew of notable departures, including the campaign treasurer on March 2.

Francois Fillon’s woes have raised speculation that Alain Juppe, also a former prime minister, could return to the race if he were to pull out.

Alain Juppe was overwhelmingly defeated by Francois Fillon in the Republicans’ primary in November, securing only 33% of the vote to Fillon’s 66%.

Sources close to Alain Juppe said he would be prepared to step in, but only with the unanimous support of the party and only if Francois Fillon were to go voluntarily.

Francois Fillon has so far said he has no intention of stepping down despite the continuing hemorrhage of allies.

Francois Fillon has taken back a promise to quit France’s presidential race if placed under formal investigation.

His campaign has been dogged by claims, which he denies, that his wife and two of his children were paid for non-existent parliamentary work.

While an initial investigation is already under way, a decision on a more formal probe has yet to be made.

Francois Fillon told Le Figaro: “I am the candidate and I will continue until victory.

“The closer we get to the date of the election, the more scandalous it would be to deny the Right and the Center of a candidate.”

Image source Wikimedia

The first round of the election will be held on April 23, with the second round run-off between two candidates two weeks later.

On January 26, Francois Fillon had told the TF1 channel that “the only thing that would prevent me from being a candidate is if my honor was tainted, if I was placed under examination”.

While France’s financial prosecutor decided to keep an initial investigation open on February 16, the decision to launch a more formal probe would need to be taken by a magistrate. It could take months or years to reach that point.

Media reports say Francois Fillon’s Welsh-born wife Penelope earned €831,400 ($880,000) as her husband’s parliamentary assistant between 1998 and 2012, and questioned how much work she had done.

It subsequently emerged that Francois Fillon had hired two of his children to act as lawyers, paying them €84,000 between 2005 and 2007 – when they were students.

In early February, Francois Fillon said that although what he had done was legal, French people no longer accepted the practice and that he had made a “mistake”.

The controversy has hit Francois Fillon in the polls, with one new survey by Ifop for three French media outlets on February 17 suggesting he is neck-and-neck with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

However, the poll places both behind the far-right’s Marine Le Pen.

Polls indicate Francois Fillon or Emmanuel Macron would easily beat Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election in May.

Benoit Hamon has become the French Socialist Party’s candidate in this year’s presidential elections, after winning a run-off vote on January 29.

The ex-education minister comfortably beat former PM Manuel Valls, who conceded before the final tally was completed.

However, the Socialists are not expected to do well in the election as the outgoing president, Francois Hollande, has a very low approval rating.

Conservative Francois Fillon, right-wing Marine Le Pen, and centrist Emmanuel Macron lead the polls for April elections.

With 60% votes counted in the Socialist run-off, Benoit Hamon had just over 58% to Manuel Valls’ 41%.

After his win was announced, Benoit Hamon said: “Despite the differences, the forces of the left have never been so close in terms of ideas. Let’s come together.”

Image source Wikipedia

Benoit Hamon, 49, called on the Socialist Party, independent left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon, and a Green candidate to unite and “construct a government majority”.

He was the most left-leaning of the seven initial candidates in the Socialist race, the first round of which was held last week.

Benoit Hamon has experienced a surge in popularity from a range of progressive plans, including a proposal for a universal monthly income for all citizens.

He also wants to legalize cannabis, and ditch the labor law passed last year that made it easier to hire and fire.

Anyone was allowed to vote in the primary, even those who were not party members.

According to organizers, the turnout was much higher than the previous week, when 1.6 million people cast ballots.

However, there have been reports of mismanagement, with one reporter from news site Buzzfeed saying she had been allowed to vote four times in the second round. She said she voided her ballot so as not to affect the outcome.

Journalists from Le Monde newspaper also claimed they were permitted to vote more than once in the first round.

Manuel Valls had built his campaign on his experience gained as prime minister between 2014 and 2016.

The presidential race has taken a turn in recent days, with the favorite for the post, Francois Fillon, becoming embroiled in a controversy over payments to his wife for political work – which a French publication claimed there was no evidence she carried out.

Francois Fillon denies the allegations, and said he would drop out of the race if there was enough evidence to launch an investigation.

On January 29, Francois Fillon and his wife were side by side at a Paris rally that sought to reinvigorate his candidacy.

In his speech, Francois Fillon said: “Leave my wife out of the political debate!”

Francois Fillon’s scandal could potentially be a boost for Marine Le Pen, the anti-immigration hardliner who has pledged to put “native” French people first.

Francois Fillon has won the conservative candidacy in the 2017 French presidential election after his rival Alain Juppe admitted defeat.

With virtually all the results counted, Francois Fillon had won November 27 run-off with nearly 67% of the vote.

He said action was now needed to build a fairer society.

Francois Fillon is likely to face a Socialist candidate and the far-right’s Marine Le Pen in next April’s election.

Image source Wikimedia

Image source Wikimedia

“My approach has been understood,” he told his supporters after the result of the Republican party primary became clear.

“France can’t bear its decline. It was truth and it wants action.”

Alain Juppe, the more moderate candidate, congratulated Francois Fillon on his “large victory” and pledged to support him in his bid to become president.

With votes from 9,334 of the 10,229 polling stations counted, Francois Fillon won 66.9% while Alain Juppe had 33.1%.

Francois Fillon, 62, had been widely expected to win the race, after securing 44% of the vote in the first round a week ago that saw former President Nicolas Sarkozy knocked out.

A former prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Fillon is a Catholic who is seen as a traditionalist on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Francois Fillon is proposing dramatic economic reforms that include slashing 500,000 public jobs, ending the 35-hour week, raising the retirement age and scrapping the wealth tax.

Alain Juppe, also a former prime minister, had initially been seen as the favorite to win the race, but struggled against Francois Fillon’s strong performances in the primary debates.

France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been knocked out of the first round of the conservatives’ primary to choose the presidential candidate of the center-right Republican party.

Admitting defeat, Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed Francois Fillon, a moderate who finished first in November 20 first round, according to near-complete results.

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics

Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his return to French politics

Alain Juppe, who like Francois Fillon is an ex-prime minister, finished second.

They will face each other in a run-off on November 27. The winner will compete in next year’s presidential election.

The winner of the Republican primary is likely to make the presidential run-off, where he or she will probably face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

With the governing socialists unpopular and divided, it seems unlikely that any left-wing candidate will survive the first round in April.

Polls currently suggest that the center-right candidate would win the second round in May.

The French conservative UMP party has chosen Jean-Francois Cope as its next leader after a tight election marred by claims of fraud and ballot-stuffing.

Jean-Francois Cope, an ally of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, won 50.03% of the vote, defeating ex-PM Francois Fillon, who polled 49.97%, by just 98 votes.

The final result was delayed for more than 24 hours.

Jean-Francois Cope, the UMP secretary general, is on the right of the party, while Francois Fillon is seen as more of a centrist.

Party grandees had urged the two candidates to end their war of words, warning that the UMP had been damaged.

Jean-Francois Cope, 48, said he had telephoned Francois Fillon, 58, to ask him to join him at the heart of the UMP “because our opponents are on the left”.

“My hands and my arms are wide open,” he told supporters after the result was announced.

“It is in that state of mind that I telephoned Francois Fillon this evening, it is in that state of mind that I asked him to join me.”

Francois Fillon, speaking after his rival’s victory speech, mentioned “many irregularities” in the electoral process but stopped short of rejecting the result.

He also warned of a deepening split in the UMP.

“What strikes me is the rift at the heart of our political camp, a political and moral fracture,” he said.

The French conservative UMP party has chosen Jean-Francois Cope as its next leader after a tight election marred by claims of fraud and ballot-stuffing

The French conservative UMP party has chosen Jean-Francois Cope as its next leader after a tight election marred by claims of fraud and ballot-stuffing

Opinion polls had consistently given Francois Fillon the edge, but initial results on Sunday showed a narrow lead for Jean-Francois Cope.

The UMP held the presidency of France for 17 years, until May, when Socialist candidate Francois Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy’s bid for a second term.

The two candidates have different visions for the party.

Jean-Francois Cope is considered more right-wing. Last month he produced “A Manifesto for an Uninhibited Right” in which he claimed that gangs in the city suburbs were fostering “anti-white racism”.

Francois Fillon is seen as sober and more restrained.

The winner will inherit a party in difficult financial straits, after a series of electoral setbacks over the past five years, culminating in Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential defeat to Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Jean-Francois Cope

  • Secretary-general of the UMP since November 2010
  • Aged 48 – born 5 May 1964 in Paris to Jewish parents of Romanian and Algerian origin
  • Divorced father-of-four

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A vote to decide who will lead France’s conservative opposition UMP has plunged the party into disarray and acrimony.

Both candidates, Jean-Francois Cope and Francois Fillon, have claimed victory and accused their rival of fraud and ballot-stuffing.

Only a handful of votes separate right-wing candidate Jean-Francois Cope and ex-Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

A final result is expected later on Monday, but party grandees said the UMP had been damaged, and urged both candidates to end their war or words.

“The movement has emerged divided and thus weakened by this excessive confrontation,” wrote the former prime minister and foreign minister, Alain Juppe, in his blog.

“Throughout the campaign, it has been less a question of the future of the UMP and more about the two candidates’ obsession with 2017 the date of the next presidential election.

“We have to get out of this lamentable situation to avoid the implosion of our party.”

Alain Juppe called on both Jean-Francois Cope, the party’s secretary general since 2010 and Francois Fillon, prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, to “accept the decision of the electoral commission when it is delivered”.

Jean-Francois Cope and Francois Fillon have claimed victory in France’ opposition election and accused their rival of fraud and ballot-stuffing

Jean-Francois Cope and Francois Fillon have claimed victory in France’ opposition election and accused their rival of fraud and ballot-stuffing

When initial results emerged late on Sunday, Jean-Francois Cope was narrowly in the lead, surprising political pundits who had expected the former prime minister to win. Opinion polls had consistently given Francois Fillon the edge.

The contest has been bitterly fought throughout by the two rivals and, even before the result came through in the southern coastal city of Nice, Jean-Francois Cope’s team complained of fraud and demanded an investigation.

A UMP deputy mayor backing Jean-Francois Cope said that there had been “a certain number of irregularities” in polling stations in the Alpes-Maritimes area. In one polling station in Paris, a party official complained that there were 40 more ballots than voters on the party list.

Francois Fillon’s team also registered a complaint.

The leading conservative daily newspaper, Le Figaro, called the election an open crisis and French political analysts say the immediate beneficiary of the vote could be the far-right National Front, whose candidate, Marine Le Pen, polled third in the presidential election in April.

The UMP was only created 10 years ago by President Jacques Chirac to unite the diverse wings of the French right.

The party was very much his personal fiefdom until he retired from politics in 2007 and was succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy.

The two candidates have different visions for the party.

Jean-Francois Cope is considered more right wing. Last month he produced “A Manifesto for an Uninhibited Right” in which he claimed that gangs in the city suburbs were fostering “anti-white racism”.

Francois Fillon is seen as sober and more restrained.

The winner will inherit a party in difficult financial straits, after a series of electoral setbacks over the past five years, culminating in Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential defeat to Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

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