French candidates boost security ahead of tense vote

France arrests two men planning 'violent' attack ahead of elections

Authorities did not specify if the election was a target.

The plan unravelled when police arrested two Frenchmen in Marseille that authorities said were "radicalised" and seized bomb-making materials as well as guns.

"Clement B. was wanted for questioning".

The men, both French, one born in 1987 and the other in 1993, are "suspected of wanting to commit, in an imminent way, a violent action on the eve of the French presidential election", the minister said.

While Le Pen had on previous occasions appeared next to the European Union flag, her attitude is not new.

Security has already been a strong campaign theme, and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen hardened her tone Tuesday on foreign extremists and border controls while centrist Emmanuel Macron called for national unity and stronger intelligence.

French media reported that Francois Fillon who is one of the main candidates was alerted and warned of "confirmed risks late last week". The two-round presidenti.

The arrests will no doubt mean increased security during the elections in a country which has remained under a state of emergency after a series of terror attacks across the country that have claimed the lives of 230 people.

"We have never seen a four-way contest like this in the first round of a presidential election", Frederic Dabi of the Ifop polling institute told AFP.

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On the campaign trail, the race was narrowing ahead of Sunday's vote, with the pack closing behind front runners Macron and Le Pen.

(AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani). A hologram of French Left party leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election Jean-Luc Melenchon speaks to supporters who gathered in Grenoble, southeastern France, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

Le Pen dropped by 2.5 percentage points to 22.5 per cent of voting intentions since early April, and Macron fell 2 percentage points to 23 per cent in the first round.

The outcome is likely a second round run off that would pit Le Pen, Macron, Melenchon or Fillon against one another in a number of combinations.

Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron reached out to the French Muslim community Wednesday, saying it's fighting on a "common front" alongside the state against Islamic extremism.

"Immigration must be regulated because we have an economic, social and housing situation that doesn't enable us to welcome as many people who want to come here", Fillon said.

Searches are also underway, Fekl said.

"The behavior of people who are now planning not to vote is a major factor". Fillon had been a favourite until allegations surfaced that he had used public funds to pay his wife and family members for fake jobs.

Having led polls at the turn of the year, the scandal hit his support hard.

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