French Socialist candidate holding Paris rally

Melenchon, meanwhile, was campaigning in Dijon in southeast France, with his trademark hologram image set to be transmitted to rallies in several other cities.

Traders were taking their cues from polls showing French centrist Emmanuel Macron easily beating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round two weeks later, analysts said. There will then be a second runoff election in May between the top two candidates.

This dual role as both a favorite and a loser has greatly informed Le Pen's tactics.

A man walks past electoral posters displaying the presidential candidates, Benoit Hamon, left, Emmanuel Macron, center, and Marine Le Pen in Paris, France, Monday, April 17, 2017.

The problem is, nothing has gone as planned.

Le Pen has in the past expressed hope that the anti-system momentum would rub off on her. This flawless political storm has caused France's two-party system to fragment into a four-party arrangement and has all but knocked the favorites out of the running, while leaving Le Pen largely unscathed. This group includes front-runner Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a self-proclaimed populist who likens himself to U.S. Sen.

Compared with the two more centrist candidates, Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron, Melenchon is an isolationist; he has promised a referendum on a French exit from the European Union if his demands to renegotiate its position within the bloc aren't met.

The race has shifted dramatically.

A French presidential campaign that's been filled with unprecedented twists and turns still has surprises in store heading into Sunday's first-round vote. "Are we going to be able to live as French for much longer when entire neighbourhoods are taken over by foreigners?" she said to wild applause and cheering.

"It's hard to do a checklist of measures to be taken" in the case of a Le Pen or Melenchon victory, he said. The euro would most probably rally on such a result. Corporate bosses are also anxious that Melenchon's plans to raise the minimum wage, cut the working week and reduce the retirement age for French workers will push up costs, and act as a further drag on the country's productivity.

In the suspects' Marseille apartment, police found one automatic rifle, two handguns, quantities of ammunition and about 6.6 pounds of explosives as well as products and equipment to make explosives, Molins said.

Opponents of Le Pen and her anti-immigration National Front party also skirmished with police outside a Paris rally this week. He said he believed in an "independent France orientated towards peace". But with only a 1 percent lead over Le Pen, the outcome is still very unpredictable. She said Wednesday that "I am a candidate in the election for the French republic" and said Europe is acting like France's "enemy".

"I have a strong faith and I am fortunate in that I have never doubted it", said Le Pen.

More than 230 people have died in militant Islamist attacks over the past two years, mostly at the hands of home-grown jihadists, often of north African descent.

Macron, a centrist option among the four most prominent candidates on the ballot Sunday, started his own movement, En Marche!, in an attempt to hold elected office for the first time.

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