France’s Political Parties Are Banding Together To Stop Le Pen

After a heated presidential election, French independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen appear set to face each other in the runoff on May 7.

Early projections on Sunday predicted Macron would win with 23.7 percent of the vote and Le Pen would take home 21.7 percent. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and conservative Republican party leader François Fillon were narrowly edged out of the final round. Those numbers were early estimates released after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time. 

“This result is historic,” Le Pen said on Sunday evening, surrounded by celebrating supporters. The far-right leader repeated her vow to tighten France’s borders that rampant globalizations was putting French civilization at risk. She also renewed her calling to curb immigration, adding that the vote would present the French a choice between a safe country or “the free circulation of terrorists.” 

Amid fears of Le Pen’s anti-European Union and anti-immigrant vision taking hold over the country, French and European politicians began throwing their support behind Macron almost immediately after Sunday’s results were announced. Figures across the political spectrum came together to back Macron, appearing to form a “cordon sanitaire” against the prospect of a Le Pen presidency. 


“In one year we have changed the face of French politics,” Macron said on Sunday evening. “I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists.”

In his concession speech, conservative candidate for The Republicans and former Prime Minister François Fillon called on supporters to vote for Macron. “This defeat is mine and it is for me and me alone to bear it,” Fillon said. “Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right.” 


Benoit Hamon, the candidate for the ruling Socialist Party who suffered a crushing defeat on Sunday, also threw his weight behind the centrist candidate. “I appeal to fight the National Front as strongly as possible by voting for Emmanuel Macron, even though he doesn’t belong to the left,” Hamon said.

He was joined in his appeal by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. “The presence of a candidate of the extreme-right in the second round of the presidential election, 15 years after the shock of April 2002, calls for a clear and strong position from all Republicans. That’s the reason why I’m calling on them to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election to defeat the National Front,” Cazeneuve said in a statement. 

The opposition to Le Pen from a wide swath of France’s politicians and parties is reminiscent of the last time the National Front entered the second round, in 2002. Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, then head of the party, was soundly defeated after voters from the left and right rallied against him.

Le Pen’s opponents hope she will suffer her father’s fate. While she has worked hard to make the party’s program more acceptable to a wide array of voters than it was under her father’s leadership, polls still predict Macron to comfortably win the matchup,

Throughout the race, Macron’s pro-EU stance has also found favor in Brussels and Berlin, while his campaign accused the Kremlin-funded media outlets of trying to interfere in the vote. European leaders on Sunday did not hesitate to congratulate him on the result. 

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman issued a statement wishing Macron “all the best.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel congratulated Macron on Twitter, wishing him success in an “optimistic” European project. 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also expressed good wishes. 

Far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the only front-runner who refused to endorse Macron on Sunday. Like Le Pen, Mélenchon is a staunch critic of the European Union and various other international institutions.

Mélenchon’s refusal to support Macron may potentially cost the centrist candidate crucial votes from the left in the runoff. 

Some of Mélenchon’s supporters appeared bitter on Sunday night. 

“I am staying home. The game is over, Macron is president already. I have no job. Macron, Le Pen, all the same,” Fahrid, a 37-year-old voter told Reuters. Fahrid said he would not vote in the second round. 




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Lebanese Activists Protest ‘Stone Age’ Rape Law With Haunting Public Art Piece

Lebanese activists are keeping the pressure on members of parliament as the time nears to repeal a widely criticized rape law that commutes the sentences of rapists who marry their victims. 

Along Beirut’s coastline Saturday, 31 paper wedding dresses hung by nooses created by Lebanese sculptor Mireille Honeïn were installed as part of the 16-day long campaign against Lebanon’s Article 522.

MPs could vote on May 15 to repeal the law. 

“This Article 522 is from the stone age. It’s not acceptable for people to talk about it anymore,” Jean Oghassabian, Lebanon’s minister for women’s affairs, told Agence France Presse. “How is it reasonable for a woman to be raped and then sold into a prison?”

Alia Awada, from the nongovernmental organization Abaad, which promotes equality for women, explained the symbolism of the 31 dresses to the AFP.   

“There are 31 days in a month and every single day, a woman may be raped and forced to marry her rapist,” Awada said. 

In a February interview with the Huffington Post, Awada said that when an unmarried girl is raped and her case is taken to court, the judge typically suggests the girl marry her rapist as a way of preserving the family’s honor. 

“All three sides – the judge, the girl’s family and her rapist – must agree to the marriage,” Awada said. 

How is it reasonable for a woman to be raped and then sold into a prison?”
Jean Oghassabian, Lebanon’s minister for women’s affairs

Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the law violates women and girls a second time by trapping them into life with their rapist.

“Protecting honor should be about ensuring that attackers are punished and promoting social attitudes that support survivors of sexual violence instead of stigmatizing them,” Begum said.

Human Rights Watch notes that a growing number of countries have repealed such laws that grant rapists clemency for marrying victims in recent years: France and Peru repealed such laws in the 1990s, while Costa Rica and Uruguay both repealed such laws in the past decade, in 2007 and 2006 respectively.

Last December, a parliamentary committee announced an agreement to repeal the law. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has previously said he “applauded” the repeal of Article 522.  

“I applaud the Administration and Justice Committee’s cancelation of Article 522 that exempts a rapist from penalties if he marries his victim. We now await the completion of this civilized step for the upcoming legislative session.”

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The First Round In The French Presidential Elections Marked A Political Earthquake

PARIS ― The wait is finally over. At the end of a historic campaign, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen decisively defeated Jean-Luc Mélenchon and François Fillon in the first round of the French presidential election.

Sunday’s results are a landmark moment in France’s recent political history. As many as four candidates stood a chance of advancing to this year’s runoff, and for the first time ever in the history of the Fifth Republic, neither the Republican Party nor the Socialist Party will have a candidate in the second round. 

Macron, the centrist candidate who formed his own party, En Marche! (which translates roughly to “Onward!”), is set to win the first round of the election with 23.8 percent of the vote, according to projections on Sunday night. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the former economy minister who ran without support from any of the main four parties in Parliament.

“The two political parties that have governed France for years have been discarded,” Macron said on Sunday night. 

Le Pen, the head of the National Front party, will likely win 22 percent of the vote ― nearly 4 points more than she took home in the previous election. While it appears she didn’t come in first, her spot in the runoff marks a historic moment for the far-right, nationalist party. 

Fillon And The Crisis On The Right

The biggest disappointment of the night was for Fillon. The conservative Republican candidate will be eliminated in the first round with around 19-20 percent of the vote. While Fillon was the front-runner five months ago, allegations that he paid family members to work as parliamentary aides eventually meant the end of the former prime minister’s presidential aspirations.

Fillon’s defeat, combined with Macron’s victory, are likely to cause a serious crisis within the Republican Party. Fillon said on Sunday he plans to vote for Macron and urged his followers to do the same. “Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right,” Fillon said. 

Mélenchon, the left-wing candidate of La France Insoumise (“A France That Won’t Bow Down”) surged in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign and appears set to eventually take home 18-19 percent of the vote. Mélenchon ran a dynamic and innovative campaign, and while he didn’t manage to reach the runoff, he improved his 2012 score by 7 points. His strong personal results and the collapse of the Socialist Party may allow him to lay the groundwork for a vast citizens’ movement. 

Race To The Bottom For The Socialist Party

For Benoît Hamon, the candidate of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, hopes for a last-minute surprise did not pan out. A victim of the divisions within his own party and Mélenchon’s appeal, Hamon took home the worst score ever recorded by a candidate for his party in the presidential election.

There’s no doubt that Hamon’s defeat will bring more political leverage for his Socialist Party colleague, Manual Valls. Valls, a former prime minister, stunned in March by announcing his support for Macron rather than for Hamon, the candidate of his own political party.

This story first appeared on HuffPost France and was translated into English. 

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Activist Kuki Gallmann Shot At Her Kenyan Ranch

Kuki Gallman, the Italian-born author and nature conservationist, was shot and injured in an ambush at her Kenyan ranch on Sunday morning.

The 73-year-old was surveying her Laikipia property when herders reportedly shot her in the hip and stomach. The herders were searching for pasture as Kenya suffers an intense drought, local police chief Ezekiel Chepkowny said, according to The Associated Press.

She was airlifted to a hospital in Nairobi and emerged from surgery in stable but critical condition, Gallman’s friends and family say.

Herders have said they need land from Gallman’s 139-square-mile conservancy to graze their livestock. Authorities believe some of them recently set fire to a retreat on Gallman’s property favored by her late son.

Fear not,” she wrote on her Facebook page after the alleged arson. “I am alive my spirit holds and I shall never give up.”

Kenyan citizen and author of bestseller I Dreamed of Africa, Gallman has been raising funds to rebuild the retreat and improve security on her land.

Sveva Gallman, Gallman’s daughter, told NPR earlier this month that while they’ve always allowed herders to graze their animals on the land, more herders from far away have showed up with thousands of cattle and increased tensions. She suspects that some of the livestock is owned by wealthy politicians.

Gallman hasn’t been the only target of violence in the Laikipia region. Herders are suspected of killing British rancher and safari company founder Tristan Voorspuy, who was shot to death while inspecting his lodges.

At least four police officers have been shot and injured during confrontations with herders in the region, Kenyan outlet Daily Nation reported. 

In February, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the country’s drought a national disaster. The Red Cross says 2.7 million people risk starvation

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Russian Cyberspies Hacked Us For Two Years: Danish Defense Minister

A Russian cyberespionage group hacked into the emails of Danish Defense Ministry employees for two years, the country’s defense minister says.

In an interview on Sunday with the Danish paper Berlingske, Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said the Russian hacker group ATP28 accessed department employees’ emails in 2015 and 2016. While no classified information was breached, Frederiksen characterized the hack as serious.

“It is linked to the intelligence services or central elements in the Russian government, and it is a constant battle to keep them away,” Frederiksen said in the interview.

U.S. Intelligence officials consider ATP28 ― also known as “Fancy Bear” ― to be linked to the Russian government, if not an outright agent of the Kremlin. Officials believe the same group hacked the Democratic National Committee and tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

Denmark, a NATO member, is the latest in a line of nations ― including the U.S., Ukraine, Georgia and Germany ― to accuse Russian hackers of cyberespionage. 

The Danish Defense Ministry confirmed to Reuters that Frederiksen was accurately quoted, but didn’t provide further details. The Kremlin didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment. 

Frederiksen had warned of the likelihood of a Russian cyberattack in January, after the Danish Defense Intelligence Service issued a 2016 national risk assessment report. Though the report did not specifically single out Russia, it indicated that Denmark was at high risk of cybercrime and a cyberattack by a “foreign government.”

The Russian government was likely to “get involved in our democratic processes” the same way it allegedly did in the U.S., Frederiksen told Berlingske earlier this year. 

Frederiksen said the defense ministry must strengthen its email and other cyberprotections in response to the hacking. 

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12-Year-Old Drives 800 Miles Across Australia Before Police Stop Him

There’s nothing like the open road.

A 12-year-old boy attempting to drive across Australia by himself drove more than 800 miles before police arrested him.

Authorities from the Broken Hill Highway Patrol stopped the boy around 11 a.m. on Saturday, the New South Wales Police Force said in a statement.

“Checks revealed the driver to be a 12-year-old boy traveling from Kendall NSW on his way to Perth,” police said.

The boy was pulled over when highway patrol officers noticed his vehicle’s bumper dragging across the ground.

“Officers from Broken Hill Highway Patrol stopped a motor vehicle on the Barrier Highway due to defects which made the vehicle hazardous,” police said.

The child happened to be traveling during day two of “Operation Go Slow,” a driver safety campaign featuring heightened police presence on the roads in New South Wales.

The boy was arrested and taken to the Broken Hill Police Station.  

The road trip would be an ambitious one for even the most experienced traveler. It is unclear how he traveled such a great distance and refueled the car, all without being noticed, The Guardian noted.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a child has decided to take a road trip. Last year, two determined pre-schoolers in Washington state took the keys to their parents’ SUV with hopes of visiting their grandma, only to crash into another car.

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North Korea, With Characteristic Bluster, Threatens To Sink U.S. Aircraft Carrier

SEOUL, April 23 (Reuters) - North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a U.S. carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days” but gave no other details.

North Korea remained defiant.

“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary.

The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a “gross animal” and said a strike on it would be “an actual example to show our military’s force.”

The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm.

Speaking during a visit to Greece, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there were already enough shows of force and confrontation at present and appealed for calm.

“We need to issue peaceful and rational sounds,” Wang said, according to a statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry.

Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a Korean-American man in his fifties on Friday, bringing the total number of U.S. citizens held by Pyongyang to three.

The man, Tony Kim, had been in North Korea for a month teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the institution’s chancellor Chan-Mo Park told Reuters. He was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport on his way out of the country.

North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.

It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump.

He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike. 


North Korea says its nuclear program is for self-defense and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea’s recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted.

“We’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly; their word has not proven honest,” Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier.

Japan’s show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads.

Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack.

Japan’s navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China’s.

The two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will “practice a variety of tactics” with the U.S. strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement.

The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place, but by Sunday the destroyers could have reached an area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be east of the Philippines.

From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean peninsula. Japan’s ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against.

South Korea has put its forces on heightened alert.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally, opposes Pyongyang’s weapons programs and has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension.

Last Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea,” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike.”

(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; editing by Ralph Boulton and Jason Neely)

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Hundreds Of Iraqis Flee Heavy Fighting In Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq, April 23 (Reuters) - Heavy two-way traffic of carts carrying children, clothes, and the elderly crowded the main Baghdad-Mosul road on Sunday as hundreds of Iraqis fled heavy fighting or made their way back to areas seized back from Islamic State.

Families paid no heed to the sound of heavy mortar, artillery and machine gun fire raging in the background as U.S.-trained Iraqi forces battled Islamic State some two km.(about a mile) away.

Some had walked miles to a government checkpoint where the men were placed in army trucks and sent for security screening to ensure no militant sleeper cells get out of the city. Women and children were put on busses and sent to camps housing hundreds of thousands, some displaced since the offensive to retake the Islamic State stronghold began in October.

“We left because of darkness, hunger, and death. There are bullets and air strikes. We were injured, our children were injured,” said Younnes Ahmed, who was fleeing al-Thaura district with his family, their clothes all piled on a cart. There was a deep bullet wound on his hand.

A group of young men further inside the city sat on the street as soldiers gave them back identification cards they had taken to conduct background checks before letting them go.

Most houses were reduced to rubble, either because of air strikes or Islamic State bombs. Cars were hollowed out.

“Islamic State blew up my house with TNT to shield against air strikes,” said Hossam Saleh who now lives in rubble because he has nowhere to escape to.

Others were walking back into the city, eager to reclaim their homes after their neighborhoods had been retaken from Islamic State by U.S.-backed security forces.

“We left because of the air strikes but have now returned. But we want the government to restore services like electricity and water and to allow us to drive instead of using carts,” said Mosaab Mohamed who was walking back into Mosul with his family.

Iraqi forces have taken much of Mosul from the militants who overran the city in June 2014. The military now controls the eastern districts and are making advances in the west.

Islamic State fighters, holding out in the Old City, are surrounded in the northwest and are using booby traps, sniper and mortar fire to defend themselves.

Three policemen were killed in a suicide attack south of Mosul. A group of about 10 assailants, including four suicide bombers, had tried to infiltrate a Federal Police helicopter base in Al-Areej, a police captain told Reuters.


Those who have returned say the government has been slow to restore services even to western districts that had been retaken a while ago.

“We are besieged in the Resala area. There are stray bullets from other areas where there is fighting; three children have died,” said Mohamed Sobhi.

“Water and aid cannot reach us. I call on the government to redistribute the people in areas like ours into other safer areas in Mosul.”

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped in western Mosul, where Iraqi forces are making slow progress against Islamic State in what is a labyrinth of narrow streets.

As of April 20, some 503,000 people have been displaced from Mosul, of whom 91,000 have returned, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. The U.N. migration agency, the IOM, puts the displaced figure at 334,518 people as of April 23.

Still, there were signs of a slow return to commerce on Sunday, with one man setting up a cigarette stand and a family selling candy bars and water on the Mosul-Baghdad road, and residents were eager to rebuild.

“We do not want anything from the government, we just want to be alllowed to help ourselves. If we can have letters allowing us to go other places we will get our own water, and transport it back,” said Omar Khaled as he carried his infant son back into the city.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Emmanuel Macron And Marine Le Pen Set To Win First Round Of France’s Presidential Election

The preliminary results of France’s first round of presidential elections are in, and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen appear set to face each other in the runoff on May 7. 

Early projections on Sunday predicted Macron would win with 23.7 percent of the vote and Le Pen would take home 21.7 percent. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and conservative Republican party leader Francois Fillon were narrowly edged out of the final round. Those numbers were early estimates released after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time. Final results are expected later this evening. 

“The French have expressed their desire for change. We’re clearly turning a page in French political history,” Macron said of the early results in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

Le Pen also reacted triumphantly to the result.

“The great debate will finally take place. The French must seize this historic opportunity,” she tweeted.

People around the world are watching the election as a litmus test of just how influential the strains of populism and nationalism in Europe have become.

The threat of terror and a lack of jobs have fueled distrust in the government and reinvigorated a vicious debate about immigration and national identity. 

But the vote is just as much a test for the future of Europe. Compounding France’s internal challenges are the rise of populism and the rejection of establishment politics in places like Britain and the United States. Trust in the European system has eroded, and proposals to depart the European Union have become en vogue for populist candidates across the continent. 

French candidates and politicians reacted almost immediately to the results, and many called for the country to rally around Macron in the second round.

Conservative candidate Fillon, while giving his concession speech, called on supporters to vote for Macron. Ruling Socialist party candidate Benoit Hamon, also threw his support behind Macron in light of the results.

France finds itself at somewhat of a crossroads in its political history. Working-class voters are struggling with high unemployment and an economy that hasn’t fully recovered from the European debt crisis. Several French cities are reeling from recent deadly terrorist attacks. Just on Thursday, a 39-year-old French national killed one police officer and injured several more on Paris’ Champs Elysées, in an incident that the self-described Islamic State took credit for shortly after. French authorities foiled yet another attack in the city of Marseille earlier last week. 

Following the Champs Elysées attack, President Donald Trump predicted that the shooting would have a “big effect” on the election. Le Pen gave a speech in which she vowed to protect France. Fillon also sought to position himself as tough on terror following the attack, saying that fighting “Islamist totalitarianism” needed to be a priority for the government.

But despite the hard-line rhetoric, the attack did not appear to shift voting patterns. The early results mostly reflected polls before the attack, and neither Fillon nor Le Pen gained a boost that propelled them into first place. 

Security fears still loomed over France on Sunday as citizens voted, however, and a polling station in the eastern town of Besancon was evacuated after a stolen vehicle was reportedly abandoned nearby with its engine still running.

President Trump suggested that he was keeping a close eye on the election, tweeting that it was “very interesting.” 

As of early evening on Sunday, turnout was down around 1 percent from the 2012 election. French citizens abroad also voted over the weekend, forming long lines at polling stations in a number of major cities across the globe.

The campaign itself was marked by scandal, surprises and upsets at every turn.

First, President Hollande announced he would not seek re-election. Then, former President Nicolas Sarkozy failed to win his party’s nomination when Fillon, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2017, beat him in the primaries.

The conservative Fillon was a likely front-runner, appealing to right-wing voters with a pro-business and socially conservative platform mixed with anti-immigration and anti-Islam views. But a series of scandals, including allegations Fillon had paid his family members to work as parliamentary aides, caused his support to plummet. 

As Fillon’s star faded, Macron’s rose. A relative political novice, Macron founded his own political party, En Marche! (which translates roughly to “Onward!”). After leaving investment banking in 2014, he served as Hollande’s economic minister until deciding to run for office last year. Unlike Le Pen, Macron is pro-E.U. and pro-immigration.

For Le Pen, the election is the ultimate test of her efforts to bring the extreme-right National Front into the mainstream. 

Le Pen took over the party’s leadership from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and has worked hard to clean up its image. She remains vehemently anti-immigration and has vowed to hold a referendum on France’s membership in the European Union if elected.

Le Pen is also an open admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin. During a visit to the Kremlin last month, she called sanctions against Russia “silly” and reiterated her desire for closer ties with Russia. Faced with declining polls in recent weeks, Le Pen has made a sharp turn to the right and intensified her anti-immigrant rhetoric.

For months, polls have been leaning in favor of a runoff between Le Pen and Macron, putting Le Pen’s presidential dream within reach. And she’s managed to harness the youth vote: An Ifop survey last month revealed that 39 percent of French voters between the ages of 18 and 24 back her.

But the far-left Mélenchon, 65, threw a major curveball by soaring to prominence in the final stretch of the race. 

A open admirer of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, Mélenchon spent decades in the Socialist Party before forming his own party, La France Insoumise (“A France That Won’t Bow Down”) last year.

He views himself as a patriot who wants to end austerity and boost the economy with a giant stimulus package while also reducing the workweek to 32 hours. Like Le Pen, he opposes E.U. and various other international institutions, including the World Trade Organization.

This story has been updated as polls close in France.

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North Korea Detains U.S. Citizen

By James Pearson

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea detained a U.S. citizen on Saturday as he attempted to leave the country, bringing the total number of Americans held by the isolated country to three.

Korean-American Tony Kim had spent a month teaching an accounting course at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the university’s chancellor, Chan-Mo Park, told Reuters on Sunday.

The arrest took place on Saturday morning local time, a statement by the university said, and was “related to an investigation into matters that are not connected in any way to PUST”.

Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk and is in his fifties, was detained by North Korean officials at Pyongyang International Airport as he attempted to leave the country, Park said.

“The cause of his arrest is not known but some officials at PUST told me his arrest was not related to his work at PUST. He had been involved with some other activities outside PUST such as helping an orphanage,” Park said.

“I sincerely hope and pray that he will be released soon”.

An official at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said it was not aware of the reported arrest.

In Washington, the State Department said it was aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea but had no further comment because of privacy considerations.

Kim is listed as an accounting professor on the website of PUST’s sister institution in neighboring China, the Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST). Calls to YUST were not answered.

PUST was founded by evangelical Christians and opened in 2010, with students generally the children of the country’s elite.

Its volunteer faculty, many of whom are evangelical Christians, has a curriculum that includes subjects once considered taboo in North Korea, such as capitalism.

North Korea, which has been criticized for its human rights record, has in the past used detained Americans to extract high-profile visits from the United States, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.

North Korea was already holding two Americans.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student, was detained in January last year and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by a North Korean court for attempting to steal a propaganda banner.

In March 2016, Kim Dong Chul, a 62-year-old Korean-American missionary, was sentenced to 10 years hard labor for subversion. There have been no public appearances of either man since.

The reclusive state is also holding Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim. He was charged with subversion and given a hard labor life sentence in 2015.

Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 15 years hard labor for crimes against the state. He was released two years later.


(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul, Yawen Chen in Beijing, Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Jason Neely/Grant McCool/Alexander Smith)

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