World Bulletin / News Desk
France's tumultuous presidential election battle steps up a gear Monday as the main candidates face off in the first of several TV debates, gunning for every vote with just a month to go.
In France's most unpredictable election in years, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron have been running neck-and-neck for weeks, with the latest opinion poll showing the centrist just half a percentage point ahead for the first round of voting on April 23.
Monday's debate will be an unprecedented chance for French voters to compare candidates before the first round as the frontrunners will share the stage with trailing candidates Francois Fillon of the right and Benoit Hamon of the left, along with the far left Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Advisors to 48-year-old Le Pen, who polls show would lose to Macron in the May 7 run-off if the election were held today, said she would tear into the "globalist" programme of her pro-EU rival.
The 39-year-old former economy minister will also come under pressure from Fillon, who will attempt to claw back votes lost to Macron since he became embroiled in a damaging fake jobs scandal.
Polls currently show Fillon, the one-time favourite, crashing out in the first round behind Le Pen and Macron, following revelations of payments by parliament to his wife and children as well as loans and lavish gifts from wealthy friends.
The 63-year-old former premier, who has been charged with misuse of public funds, will attempt to shift the focus to his programme, including the radical spending cuts he says will be France's only hope for real change.
At least 39 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire near Gaza border
Serbia's ambassador to Ankara says 5 government ministers will accompany Serbian president
He acted quickly -- just a day after decades of Castro rule ended and long time party loyalist Miguel Diaz-Canel assumed power as president.
Multimillion-dollar lawsuit raises issue of hacking of Democratic National Committee’s servers
Syrian regime would be 'ill-advised' to ignore message sent by last week’s allied missile strike, says US Defense Secretary
At least 39 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli interventions since border rallies began March 30
Thursday’s vote make Diaz-Canel first person outside Castro family to rule country in almost 60 years
Syrian regime had no clear picture of what was happening to them, says U.S. general, referring to U.S.-led joint attack
Hamas, Islamic Jihad announced plans earlier to boycott scheduled meeting of PLO’s National Council
Canadian provinces at war over future delivery of oil to Pacific countries
Terrorists killed during operations in Saladin governorate
Decision follows Ecuador’s withdrawal as mediator in talks between Bogota and rebel group
The economic damage of trade war will be smaller than its perceived risk, experts say
Top court says in 5-4 decision federal statute is 'unconstitutionally vague'
'Both chlorine and sarin gas were used in the attack,' says State Department spokesperson
Move ‘is just one step in a journey that requires dedication,’ says coffee chain’s CEO