More cracks emerge in Fillon campaign as French rivals push ahead

Marine Le Pen French National Front political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election speaks during a visit to Le Mont Saint Michel France

Financial markets are closely watching the turbulent French campaign, in which far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is seeking to repeat the kind of anti-establishment shock that saw Britons vote to quit the European Union past year and Donald Trump elected as USA president.

Polls suggest Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will be the top two vote-getters in the April 23 first round and advance to the May 7.

The move, formally confirmed Thursday, will allow French prosecutors to investigate Le Pen over tweets she sent in December 2015 that showed images of killings by ISIS militants.

"Daesh is THIS!" Le Pen tweeted angrily in accompaniment to the photos.

The chances for such an outcome look real: Polls show the leading candidates in the Netherlands and France have included Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen, both of whom share Mr. Trump's anti- immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda, along with antipathy toward the European Union and, in the case of Ms. Le Pen, admiration for Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Fillon was the front-runner in the French presidential election as little as two months ago but his campaign has been swamped by an investigation into his wife's job as a parliamentary aide after a newspaper reported that she took her public salary without doing any work. "I won't withdraw", Fillon told reporters at his campaign headquarters, denying guilt.

He trailed Le Pen, on 27 percent and Macron, on 24 percent. This incident took place when Macron visited an agricultural fair in Paris, which is a known campaign stop for presidential candidates in France.

According to Libération newspaper, which has a page keeping tabs on Fillon defections, nearly 70 Right-wingers have dropped their candidate this week.

India weighing options to restart talks with Pak
Tensions heightened after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February threatened to block the flow of water into Pakistan. They said that India bought time to complete the two projects and then said that the projects could not be modified.

Ms Le Pen's chief of staff, Catherine Griset, was handed a preliminary charge of receiving money through a breach of trust.

The staunch Catholic emerged in November as the surprise nominee of the conservative Republicans party after promising to slash public spending and cut bureaucracy.

In that second round, he is now projected to face Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader with an anti-immigration, anti-EU platform.

She has also refused a police interview on the topic on the same grounds.

"We don't know what can happen", she said. Macron, a 39-year-old who has never held elected office, is presenting himself as a fresh face without political baggage.

Before the allegations surfaced, Fillon was the clear leader in opinion polls. Most importantly, he is the only top contender for the presidential role that is now not facing allegations or is in the midst of investigations of corruption.

According to all second-round polls, Macron beats Le Pen by a very safe 60% to 40% while Fillon has a slightly smaller lead.

Fillon's increasingly provocative rhetoric provoked a slap from President Francois Hollande this week.

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