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.
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Experts pointed for instance to an Indiana Senate bill that would allow law enforcement to "use any means necessary to clear the roads of people unlawfully obstructing vehicular traffic".
Petry sparked outrage during the crisis when she suggested that as a last resort, guards should be allowed to open fire at migrants streaming into Germany.
Thousands of people, many of them Syrians fleeing war, are stuck in Greece's Aegean islands as a result of an EU-Turkish agreement that curbed the influx of migrants to the European Union.
Corruption is a major issue in Spain, where the Socialists and regional politicians have also been hit by scandals.
The original summons came days after EU leaders gave Donald Tusk another term as president despite strong opposition from Poland.
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"We will continue to play our part in ensuring that Europe remains strong and prosperous and able to lead in the world," May wrote in the Irish Times a day after she launched Britain's withdrawal process.