The European Parliament on Thursday voted to strip French far-right leader Marine Le Pen of her parliamentary immunity, in a decision that would clear the way for investigators to prosecute the presidential candidate over violent ISIS-related images she posted on Twitter in 2015.
Marine Le Pen, France's presidential candidate and leader of the French National Front, in Paris on February 28.
For decades, the Front was considered just a fringe political movement composed of old fascists.
The allegations, dating back to January, were made by the investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine. The officials, who were not authorized to publicly comment on the investigation, would not provide further details.
In a new setback for Fillon, his key aide Bruno Le Maire resigned as his adviser on global affairs, saying the candidate had gone back on his word to withdraw from the election if he was placed under formal investigation. She's very close. She's leading the race.
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Ms Le Pen has refused to attend a police interview over the latter allegations. In this way she tried to draw the public's attention to the cruelty of extremists.
Le Pen took down the tweet showing the killing of Foley after his family protested, but left up another image of violence by Islamic State extremists. But she also comes across as a vulnerable woman, a working mother in a political world dominated by men. "Not to be confused with the National Front".
"Daesh is THIS!" Le Pen tweeted angrily in accompaniment to the photos. And the more she faces investigations of financial impropriety, the stronger is her claim that she is merely hounded by a French political elite determined to halt her seemingly unstoppable rise. The party also appeals to the young.
Le Pen, 48, campaigning on an anti-immigration and anti-EU platform, is forecast to reach the second round of a contest influenced by the same populist themes that propelled US President Donald Trump to power and led to the Brexit vote in Britain.
Ultimately, however, Ms Le Pen's biggest asset is that all her current presidential competitors are weak.
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The independent Macron has expressed his desire to create a "roadmap" to fight Islamic extremism and terrorism, coming from the Mideast and Africa, better, while also calling for increasing military spending to up to 2% of the GDP - something which the USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have always been demanding of France.
The legal issues surrounding both candidates have lifted the prospects of a third contender - centrist Emmanuel Macron.
But an opinion poll on Friday showed Juppe - viewed as more centrist than Fillon - would vault into the lead if he stood.
Meanwhile, as he was speaking his Republicans party announced it will decide on Monday - a day earlier than planned - on the fate of the beleaguered conservative candidate for France's presidential election in the first round of the two-stage contest on April 23.
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