By Associated Press - Monday, April 24, 2017

PARIS (AP) - The Latest on the French presidential election (all times local):

8:55 p.m.

Israel’s president is denouncing French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s recent comments denying France’s role in the Holocaust as “uniquely disturbing.”

Speaking Monday on Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, President Reuven Rivlin said Israel should avoid “unholy alliances” with parties like hers. He called for a “war” against the “dangerous wave of Holocaust denial” in Europe.

Earlier this month Le Pen denied France was responsible for its role in rounding up French Jews for deportation to Nazi death camps.

Rivlin’s remarks came a day after Le Pen advanced to a May 7 runoff in the French presidential election.

He said Israel should “resist unholy alliances with extreme right-wing elements” in Europe because “there was and will be nothing in common with anti-Semites in any shape or form.”


8:40 p.m.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has announced that she is temporarily stepping down as head of her National Front party.

Monday’s move appears to be a way for Le Pen to embrace a wide range of potential voters ahead of the May 7 runoff between herself and Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist who came in first in Sunday’s first round.

“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” she said on French public television news.

Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and made that point when she rolled out her platform in February, saying the measures she was espousing were not her party’s, but her own.

Le Pen has worked to bring in voters from the left and right for several years, cleaning up her party’s racist, anti-Semitic image to do so.


8 p.m.

Final results from the French presidential election’s first round show that centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron got nearly 1 million more votes than far-right leader Marine Le Pen, with both advancing to the May 7 runoff.

Macron collected 8.66 million votes, or 24.01 percent, while Le Pen garnered 7.68 million votes, or 21.30 percent, according to the official final count published by the Interior Ministry.

For Le Pen, it is the best result ever achieved by her nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration party the National Front in a French presidential election.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01 percent, and left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, 19.58 percent of the vote. The other seven candidates were far behind.

Turnout was 77.77 percent, the lowest in a French presidential election for 15 years.


6:50 p.m.

A prominent Israeli opposition lawmaker is urging French voters to back centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 runoff election, calling far-right contender Marine Le Pen “dangerous.”

Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has supported Macron in a Facebook post

The former finance minister says that “this is a struggle between the moderate center and dangerous populism.”

Noting that Monday is Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, Lapid says French voters should back Macron over a candidate “who denies the French role in the Holocaust of French Jews.”

The French Embassy says Le Pen got just 4 percent of votes cast by French citizens living in Israel- a reflection of her unpopularity with Jewish voters. It says center-right candidate Francois Fillon received 60 percent and Macron 31 percent.


6:35 p.m.

Former French conservative candidate Francois Fillon says that he has lost his legitimacy after losing in the first round of French presidential election and that he won’t lead his party into June’s parliamentary election.

Fillon, whose campaign was derailed by a scandal of public-funded jobs in favor of his family, says that he will become a mere militant “among the others” again.

Speaking before other leaders of his conservative Republicans party, the former prime minister said he has “no longer legitimacy” to fight in the upcoming legislative elections.

Fillon called for his camp to remain united and “not to disperse in pre-election combinations,” an apparent warning to some leaders of his party who may be tempted to join up with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Fillon was eliminated from the presidential race after finishing third in the first round on Sunday, behind Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Fillon says that he will vote for Macron in the May 7 runoff to try to prevent Le Pen from winning the race.


4:30 p.m.

French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron has marked the 102nd anniversary of the slaying of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in a brief ceremony in Paris.

Macron laid a wreath and held a minute of silence at a monument in the memory of the victims.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed around the time of World War I in what is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide but France recognized it as such in 2001.

Macron, a centrist with pro-business, pro-European views, will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the May 7 runoff of the presidential election.


4:10 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande has urged voters to choose centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 presidential runoff to keep out far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Speaking from the Elysee presidential palace, Hollande says that Le Pen’s platform of pulling out of the euro would devastate the country’s economy and threaten French liberty.

He says that the far right would “deeply divide France” at a time when the terror threat requires “solidarity” and “cohesion.”

Macron was Hollande’s top adviser on economic issues from 2012 to 2014, then economy minister in his Socialist government for two years.

In April 2016, he launched his own political movement, En Marche! (In Motion!) to prepare his presidential bid as an independent centrist candidate. He quit the government few months later.


3:10 p.m.

An Italian populist party isn’t impressed with either French presidential candidate.

Manlio Di Stefano, foreign policy point person for the opposition 5-Star Movement, said in a Facebook post Monday that neither Emmanuel Macron, a pro-EU centrist, nor Marine Le Pen from the far-right has proposed cutting presidential salaries or enforcing two-term limits in power like his movement advocates.

Di Stefano contends neither has drawn “qualified citizens from civil society in institutions” like the 5-Stars advocate.

Opinion polls indicate the anti-euro Movement is gaining in popularity in Italy. Its leader, comic Beppe Grillo, hopes the 5-Stars will gain the premiership in elections due by 2018.


2:55 p.m.

A senior French Muslim leader has called on the country’s nearly 5 million Muslims to “vote massively” to elect Emmanuel Macron president.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of Paris’ Grand Mosque, called the final May 7 vote to choose the next French head of state “decisive for the destiny of France and its religious minorities.”

His statement said: “The Grand Mosque of Paris and its National Federation (FGMP) call on Muslims in France to vote massively for candidate Emmanuel Macron.”

Without referencing Marine Le Pen explicitly, Boubakeur says French citizens must comprehend the “threat embodied by xenophobic ideas dangerous to our cohesion.”

Macron won over 23 percent and is widely seen to be the favorite.


1:20 p.m.

The president of the European Parliament has joined the parade of EU and German leaders who have endorsed Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential race.

Antonio Tajani says he believes far-right candidate Marine Le Pen won’t win in the second round of the presidential election on May 7. He called on French people to get involved and defend the European Union.

Tajani says Le Pen’s goal of leaving the EU is a poor choice because “to remain in isolation is a bad solution.”

He says there are things to be improved about the EU “but that doesn’t mean to destroy it.”

Tajani spoke through a translator on Monday at a news conference in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, where he attended a conference of speakers of EU member states’ parliaments.


12:40 p.m.

The European Union’s head office has thrown its weight behind Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential runoff against Marine Le Pen, arguing it is a choice between the defense of the EU or those seeking its destruction.

In an exceptional stance during an ongoing campaign, the European Commission says that circumstances forced the hand of its president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that “the choice was a fundamental one.” He said Macron represents the pro-European values while Le Pen “seeks its destruction.”

Independent candidate Macron won the first round of the Presidential elections on Sunday and will face Le Pen of the extreme right National Front in the May 7 runoff.


12:20 p.m.

The president of the European Jewish Congress has lamented the success of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential elections.

Speaking on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Moshe Kantor described Le Pen as “dangerous” and adds that it was “extremely regrettable that more than one in five French voters voted for Le Pen.”

Kantor highlighted that the 48-year-old National Front leader recently “made comments against the historic record of the Holocaust which makes her no less dangerous than her Holocaust-denying father who she has tried to hide.”

Earlier this month, Le Pen denied that France was responsible for rounding up more than 13,000 Jews at a Paris cycle track to be sent to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.

Le Pen faces centrist Emmanuel Macron in a runoff election on May 7.


11:55 a.m.

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis says he hopes a victory in the French presidential election for Emmanuel Macron would mark a break in the rise of extremist populist parties in Europe.

Speaking to Spain’s Cadena Ser radio, Dastis stressed the need for caution but added that a win for Macron in the second round against Marine Le Pen would be “good news because his project for Europe is the closest to that of the Spanish government.”

Dastis said he hoped an eventual victory for Macron, together with recent Dutch election results, will confirm a move away from populist parties but added that European countries “need to get their act together, need to re-examine and constantly improve the European project.”


11:40 a.m.

French far-right president candidate Marine le Pen is accusing rival Emmanuel Macron of being “weak” in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

Le Pen, campaigning in a farmers’ market in the small town of Rouvroy in northern France, told reporters Macron “runs for presidential election while having no program” on counterterrorism issues.

Repeating her campaign’s mantra, she says she wants “to put back France in order.”

The leader of the anti-immigration, anti-Islam National Front party arrived will face Macron, an independent centrist and the early favorite, in the May 7 runoff.


11:20 a.m.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says it is important for France and for Europe that Emmanuel Macron win the French presidential runoff election.

Speaking in Amman, Jordan, Gabriel said: “It’s important for France because he has the courage and the strength to lead the country out of its lethargy.”

He adds that a Macron victory would signal a “new beginning for Europe,” but he says a win by Marine Le Pen would “push Europe deeper into crisis.”

The centrist Macron is the early favorite to defeat Le Pen, the candidate of the far right.


10:05 a.m.

European stock markets have surged on the open as investors welcomed the result of the first round of the French presidential election.

France’s CAC 40 soared 3.9 percent while Germany’s DAX rose 2.5 percent on Monday morning. The euro risen strongly on Sunday night, when it begins trading during Asian currency market hours. It had risen 2 percent but later eased back slightly to be 1.2 percent higher on the day, at $1.0857.

The centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and populist Marine Le Pen will go onto a second round vote, with Macron favored to win. Investors welcome his commitment to strengthen the European Union and the euro, both of which Le Pen wants France to exit.


9:40 a.m.

French police say six officers and three demonstrators have been injured in election night violence in which protesters burned cars, danced around bonfires and dodged riot police.

Police said on Monday morning they had detained 29 people in the unrest between protesters and police at the Place de la Bastille.

Protesters waved red flags and sang “No Marine and No Macron!” in anger at the results of Sunday’s first-round presidential election.

Some 300 people gathered at a peaceful protest at nearby Place de la Republique, waving red flags and dancing around the flames of a bonfire.

Some sang “Now burn your electoral cards” or “No Marine and No Macron!,” referring to centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who topped the first-round vote and advance to the May 7 runoff.


8:50 a.m.

A vice president of the European Parliament is describing Emmanuel Macron as a “French John F. Kennedy” and says his first-round victory is good news for Europe.

Alexander Lambsdorff, a German liberal lawmaker, said Sunday’s result was a victory for two protest candidates. He described independent centrist Macron’s far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen, as “a nationalist, a racist - I know the woman from the European Parliament, a very unpleasant person.”

Lambsdorff told Germany’s ZDF television Monday that hopes Macron, “this independent, fresh French John F. Kennedy, if you like, succeeds in setting policy with his ideas.”

Le Pen and Macron will face each other in the May 7 runoff.


8:40 a.m.

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the defeated Socialist Party is self-destructing and has to look forward to rebuild.

Valls spoke Monday to France-Inter radio, a day after French voters rejected mainstream political parties, shutting them out of the French presidency for the first time in the country’s modern history. The Socialist candidate drew around 6 percent of the vote, a dismal showing for the party that has held power for the past five years.

Valls said: “We are in a phase of decomposition, demolition, deconstruction.”


8:30 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman is welcoming Emmanuel Macron’s success in the first round of France’s presidential election and wishing him “all the best for the next two weeks.”

Pro-European Union centrist Macron will face far-right nationalist contender Marine Le Pen in a May 7 runoff after topping the vote in Sunday’s first round.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wrote on Twitter late Sunday night: “Good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU + social market economy.”

Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that “the result for Emmanuel Macron shows: France AND Europe can win together! The center is stronger than the populists think!”


7:50 a.m.

France’s far right is reaching out to voters who backed the defeated far-left contender, hoping to peel away voters from the extremes of the political spectrum.

The May 7 runoff will be between the populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, and French politicians on the moderate left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen’s path to power. The defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to do the same.

Le Pen offers an alternative for anyone skeptical of the European Union and France’s role in it, said Louis Aliot, the vice president of the National Front party.

He spoke Monday to RTL radio after the earthshaking vote that saw France’s mainstream political parties shut out of the presidency for the first time in modern history.

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