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What the papers said - 19 April 2017

rfi English, Apr 20

With just three days to go before the first round vote of the Presidential election how could we expect the newspapers to look anywhere else but to home? The shifting popularity of the main candidates in latest polls has media tongues wagging wildly.

"Mélenchon, the springs of a spectacular breakthrough" declares left-leaning Le Monde in its continuing coverage of the phenomenal surge - or perhaps rather jump if he's on springs - of hard-left rebel Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the party-less though communist-backed candidate who recently overtook socialist Benoît Hamon in the polls and swears he will make it to the second round election.

With now 19% of the voting intentions, according to the latest Cevipof survey, the candidate of France Insoumise – an un-submissive France - a France which won't bend to anyone - is according to Le Monde "the big beneficiary of the end of the presidential campaign”.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron, who launched his own "En Marche" - France "Forward" or "On the Move" political group, was still leading in yesterday's poll with 23 percent support for the first round, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen close on his tail so-to-speak at 22.5 percent.

But for Le Monde Mélenchon is the unequivocal star. His rating jumped by 3.5 points between mid-March and early April in voting intentions, and over the last fortnight enjoyed a new surge of 4 points.

Not only has Mélenchon contented himself with leaving Benoît Hamon way back in the field Le Monde quips, but he is neck and neck with scandal hit conservative François Fillon and could qualify for the second round if his spectacular dynamic continues for the rest of the week.

Mélenchon siphons support from fellow candidates

Journalist Gérard Courtois puts Mélenchon’s rise down to two factors: a stronger mobilisation of voters in his favour and a crafty siphoning of voting intentions away from other candidates - three points from among Hamon's voters, two points from Macron's and one from Le Pen's.

Plus his star performances during televised debates over past weeks means he now enjoys "the most flattering image of all the candidates” concludes Le Monde, with a "love rating" as it puts it of 25 percent compared with 24 for Emmanuel Macron, 23 for Marine Le Pen, Benoît Hamon's 17 and François Fillon in the least-loved place at 16 percent. Most of Mélenchon’s love power comes from young people under the age of 35.

Fillon sure of making it to second round

Right-winged Le Figaro carries an interview with beleaguered but tenacious François Fillon in which he confidently – some may say over-confidently – claims he will be in the second round vote.

In an exclusive interview the former prime minister denounces every shred of Emmanuel Macron's program and warns right-wing voters: "If they vote Le Pen, they will have Macron!"

"On the fight against Islam, as on everything else, Macron is blurry," Fillon charges like a bull.

Asked whether he was specifically targeted by a terrorist bomb plot this week, he said “the Interior Minister, Mathias Fekl, warned me last Thursday that they had intercepted a message calling me a target."

Despite such threats, and beefed-up security system at his offices, things are business-as-usual in his campaign program, Fillon says.

This follows the arrest of two radicalised men in southern France on Tuesday accused of planning an attack against him.

"Why you as a target, over Marine Le Pen for example?" asks Le Figaro.

To which Fillon ironically replies “It is not impossible that the candidate with the most radical project against Islamic totalitarianism should be targeted. Terrorists choose their target according to the impact they hope to give to their actions.”

For left-leaning Libération too it is all about the presidential, nothing but the presidential. It talks up the end of Marine Le Pen's "zigzag campaign" as it puts it, in Marseilles, with a picture of the charismatic if not controversial contender on a brilliant cobalt blue background.

At her last meeting before Sunday's vote, she addressed some 5,000 fans in Marseille but surprisingly, says the paper, she did not over exploit the latest foiled terror plot to fuel fears of more such attacks and general anti-Islam sentiment.

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