Emmanuel Macron's lead narrows in French presidential race: Polls

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"We thought it was an April Fool's joke", Jerome Baude told AFP, describing his surprise at receiving a 68-euro ($64) fine on Saturday for protesting outside a rally by the Republicans party nominee Fillon.

PARIS All France's presidential candidates go head to head for the first time on Tuesday in a televised debate that will pit favourites Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen against rivals, some of whom draw one percent or less of support in polls.

The Canard Enchaine satirical newspaper said a preliminary investigation by the prosecutor in Lille focused on David Rachline, campaign director for party leader Marine Le Pen, a leading candidate in the presidential election. The question now is, will this debate change the probability of who will eventually win the Presidential election and could this impact the performance of the euro and European stocks?

Rachline is of particular interest to French investigators, Le Canard said, adding that he was being paid by Nord-Pas-de-Calais even though he had been elected as a councilor to a different region in the south of the country.

Two polls conducted after a televised debate among candidates Tuesday night showed the 65-year-old Communist-party-backed candidate just a percentage point or two behind third-placed conservative Francois Fillon in an unpredictable contest in which over a third of voters are still undecided.

Over the years he has forged a reputation as an often aggressive anti-establishment figure who shares economic policies with Le Pen, while rejecting her hardline rhetoric on immigration and Islam.

"You should go talk to farmers from time to time, Mr Macron", the far-right leader of Front National said.

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"Those who say Marine Le Pen can't win the second round are the same as those who said Trump could never win". Pollsters say voters think he understands their daily struggles and lives better than any other candidate.

Macron, taking a more aggressive approach than in a first debate on March 20, accused her of wanting to start an "economic war" with France's neighbours and denounced nationalism in Europe, which had torn the continent apart and filled graveyards near his hometown Amiens in northeast France.

For his part Benoit Hamon, who is carrying the Socialist banner as Francois Hollande nears the end of a deeply unpopular presidency, vowed to "demolish" new labour laws seen as too pro-business, and create one million jobs in the next five years.

He was trailing third in the first round, according to polls, a position which would eliminate him from the race.

An inquiry was opened under a French law banning the distribution of violent images, after Le Pen tweeted images of killings by ISIS militants in December 2015.

Like Le Pen, he rails against globalisation as well as the financial and political elite, writing a book in 2011 called "Get rid of them all".

Today, by many accounts, despite expectations that the globalist Macron will ultimately prevail in the second round of voting, there are signs that Le Pen's draw among French voters is spreading.

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