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The Latest: France's election commission studies hack attack

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/05/2017
French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron shakes hands to supporters as he campaigns in Rodez, southern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. The 39-year-old independent candidate faces far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) © The Associated Press French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron shakes hands to supporters as he campaigns in Rodez, southern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. The 39-year-old independent candidate faces far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS — The Latest on the French presidential runoff on Sunday (all times local):

1:30 a.m.

France's election campaign commission is examining a hacking attack on candidate Emmanuel Macron's political movement and subsequent document leaks online.

The commission said it would hold a meeting early Saturday to discuss the attack.

It urged French media not to publish the documents, warning that some of them are "probably" fake.

French electoral law impose a blackout Saturday and most of Sunday on any campaigning and media coverage seen as swaying the election, to allow voters a period of reflection before casting their ballots.

Macron is seen as the favorite going into Sunday's runoff against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

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12 a.m.

The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says it has been the victim of a "massive and coordinated" hacking attack.

His campaign said in a statement late Friday night that some campaign emails and financial documents were hacked a few weeks ago and are now being circulated on social media, but that they have been mixed with false documents.

It said whoever is behind the leaked documents is trying to "seed doubt and disinformation" and destabilize Sunday's presidential runoff, comparing it to emails leaked from Hillary Clinton's U.S. presidential campaign.

Macron is the poll favorite going into Sunday's election against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

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10 p.m.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has defended himself against the charge that his political movement 'En Marche' is too egocentric and said — to smiles — that he did not choose its name because it matched his initials.

Macron has often played with the letters "EM," that have been plastered around rallies, and it was widely thought that he chose the name of the movement as a code for his name.

In his final campaign interview on the news site Mediapart on Friday Macron said that "the thinking had never been the initials."

Macron has tried to project a message of equality amid accusations from far-right rival Marine Le Pen that he is elitist and pompous.

Macron created En Marche, or "In Motion," in April 2016 after quitting Francois Hollande's Socialist government.

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9:45 p.m.

France's presidential voting watchdog has called on the Interior Ministry to look into claims by the campaign of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen that ballot papers are being tampered with nationwide to benefit her rival, centrist Emmanuel Macron.

On Friday, the Le Pen campaign alerted the CNCCEP watchdog after saying it had received thousands of reports of "violations of the enforcement of electoral law."

Le Pen's camp says the reports say electoral administrators in several regions — including in Ardeche, Savoie and the Loire — who received the ballot papers for both candidates have found that the Le Pen ballots had been "systematically torn up."

CNCCEP asked Interior Ministry to find out more information about these reported incidents.

Macron and Le Pen face off Sunday in France's presidential runoff.

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9:05 p.m.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says he didn't bow to multiple calls to change his political positions opportunistically to appeal to a broader base of voters following the first round of voting.

Speaking Friday on the final day of campaigning before Sunday's decisive runoff, the pro-business Macron said it wouldn't have "democratically honest" to change his program to appeal to the 7.1 million supporters of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was eliminated in the April 23 vote that Macron won.

Melenchon endorsed neither Macron nor the far-right Marine Le Pen, who are competing in Sunday's vote.

Le Pen has tried to woo Melenchon's voters with rhetoric defending blue-collar workers.

Both camps fear that many of Melenchon's supporters will simply abstain in Sunday's vote.

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6:30 p.m.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has told The Associated Press that whether or not she wins Sunday's runoff election, "we changed everything."

In an interview Friday in her headquarters, Le Pen appeared to be preparing for the possibility that she could lose to independent rival Emmanuel Macron.

Regardless of the outcome, she said she has achieved an "ideological victory. . We changed everything."

After bringing her party to unprecedented electoral success, she said, "Even if we don't reach our goal, in any event, there is a gigantic political force that is born."

She said her party managed to "impose the overhaul" of French politics.

Polls show her trailing Macron by a large margin.

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5:45 p.m.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has claimed that militants of her rival's movement En Marche are behind hecklers like those who jeered her during a surprise visit to Reims cathedral.

She says that "it's rather revealing, perhaps about the choice the French have to make" as she returned to her Paris campaign headquarters.

Le Pen said of the cathedral where France's first king was crowned alongside Joan of Arc, "hordes coming to push me, insult us ... in the place that represents the baptism of France, this sacred place, this historic place."

She said such incidents "are systematically organized by militants of En Marche."

It was the first time Le Pen blamed centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron's followers for such incidents. They face each other in Sunday's runoff.

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5:15 p.m.

France's presidential candidates have chosen two very different venues to celebrate at if they win the upcoming runoff.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron has opted for the Esplanade du Louvre. The area is already heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign.

If far-right candidate Marine Le Pen wins, she plans to crack open the champagne at the Chalet du Lac, originally a hunting lodge used by emperor Napoleon III in a park on Paris' eastern edge.

Celebrations places have a huge symbolic power and it's no wonder Macron didn't choose the Bastille or Republique squares, two highly popular places for the left, or the Place de la Concorde, where conservative Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated his victory in the 2007 presidential election.

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4:30 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is underlining how central the German-French relationship is to the European Union as France prepares to elect its new president.

Germany has made clear that it favors pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron over far-right, anti-EU contender Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff vote.

Merkel said during a speech in Hamburg that Europe needs to "move ahead faster and more decisively in areas where pan-European action brings real added value."

She added: "We see when we concentrate on Sunday and hope that the election goes as we would like that the cooperation of Germany and France in this context is of decisive significance."

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3:25 p.m.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has taken to Twitter to accuse the supporters of her rival centrist Emmanuel Macron of "violence" and disrespecting a sacred cathedral.

Le Pen made a surprise visit to Reims Cathedral of the last day of campaigning ahead of Sunday's presidential run off. But protesters gave her a hostile reception.

"Monsieur Macron's supporters act with violence everywhere, even in ... a symbolic and sacred place. No dignity," Le Pen wrote.

Television images showed Le Pen leaving the cathedral via an unmarked door, putting her arms over her head to protect herself and diving into a black car as a small crowd gathered around, shouting epithets. The car quickly sped away.

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1:55 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister says that the future of the European "project of peace" is at stake in France's presidential election. Germany and France have traditionally been the motor of European Union integration, and German officials have made clear that they favor centrist Emmanuel Macron over his anti-EU opponent Marine Le Pen in Sunday's runoff vote.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement Friday that it's important to "win back the hearts of young people all over our continent for the future of Europe." He added that "the future of our European project of peace is also up for election in France the day after tomorrow."

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1:45 p.m.

The German government says outgoing French President Francois Hollande will hold a final meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, a day after his successor is elected.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that Hollande, whose term ends May 14, will have dinner with Merkel at the chancellery.

Seibert said the chancellor will thank Hollande for five years of close cooperation, "for a good chapter in German-French friendship, for the very intensive cooperation on various themes" such as the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

German officials have made no secret of their hopes that centrist Emmanuel Macron will beat far-right contender Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff vote. Seibert said that the German government will "very quickly" be in contact with the winner.

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1:30 p.m.

Paris police say 12 people have been arrested after environmental activists breached the Eiffel Tower's security, hung a protest sign and rappelled down.

The Greenpeace activists converged on the tower around 5 a.m. and managed to keep the banner, emblazoned with the French motto of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," on display for around 45 minutes.

Six of them rappelled from the tower's archway beneath the banner.

The protest against Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, came just two days before France's election.

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1:20 p.m.

Emmanuel Macron's supporters gave far-right leader Marine Le Pen a hostile reception as she stopped at Reims cathedral on the campaign trail.

Macron, a centrist with strong pro-EU views, and Le Pen are pushing for votes on the last day of campaigning before Sunday's runoff. Polls suggest Macron could secure a comfortable victory.

Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Macron's campaign slogans and holding placards outside the church, supporters chanted "Marine, give the money back!"

French investigators asked the European Parliament last month to lift Le Pen's immunity so that she can face possible prosecution over suspected misuse of parliamentary salaries. The case concerns accusations that Le Pen and others in her National Front party used EU-paid parliamentary aides for party activity.

Reims cathedral is highly symbolic for Le Pen's National Front. Joan of Arc, the party's heroine, was present there for the 1429 coronation at the cathedral of Charles VII in the midst of her battles. A statue of Joan of Arc stands outside the cathedral.

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11:45 a.m.

Students at a Paris high school have written an open letter to French voters asking them to choose "democracy" on Sunday.

The students at Lycee Buffon recalled the tragic fate of five students shot in 1943 for fighting the Nazis and said France should unite in the fight against the far-right National Front and its candidate, Marine Le Pen.

The letter did not call on voters to throw their support behind centrist Emmanuel Macron, though.

"I'm 15, 16, 17 or 18, I'm a student. Even If I'm not old enough to vote, I'm concerned," the letter said. "Dear reader, you should know that Marine Le Pen's France is not the France we love. Our France is beautiful, tolerant and cosmopolitan. So go and vote on Sunday, for this France, this democracy."

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11 a.m.

On the last day of France's presidential campaign, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron mingled with the crowd in the small streets of the southwestern town of Rodez.

Smiling, taking selfies and shaking hands, he stayed for a few minutes in a local cafe. He also visited the 16th century cathedral without press.

People wished him "courage" and luck ahead of Sunday's runoff against far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Some left-wing voters told him they will choose him on Sunday but will remain vigilant about his pro-business project they fear will weaken workers' protections.

Macron listened, always smiling — yet didn't answer.

9:35 a.m.

Protests are breaking out in Paris on the last day of campaigning before the French presidential election, with environmental activists dangling off the Eiffel Tower and students blocking the entrance to high schools.

Activists for Greenpeace slipped into the Eiffel Tower around 5 a.m. and hung a banner with the French national motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Six activists then rappelled down the tower's archway.

The sign was removed about 45 minutes after it was unfurled.

Meanwhile, the Paris school district says 10 high schools are completely or partially blocked by student protesters who say they oppose both presidential candidates.

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9:05 a.m.

French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron says his country has to find a common destiny and overcome the anger that is dividing it.

Macron, in the last day of campaigning for the presidential election, told Europe 1 radio that if he is elected his duty will be to "ensure that the country keeps its balance."

He said Friday he had chosen as his prime minister someone with enough political experience to help bring together a legislative majority but refused to name his choice.

Despite a testy debate with far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Wednesday, Macron insisted that — should he win — she would be the first person he would call.

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8:35 a.m.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen says her anger during the presidential debate against her centrist rival is a reflection of the anger she sees throughout France.

In the last day of campaigning before Sunday's presidential vote, Le Pen acknowledged the testy debate between her and Emmanuel Macron.

"My words were nothing but the reflection of the anger that will explode in this country," she told RTL radio on Friday.

She criticized Macron as the candidate of the elite and said the French have had enough of their political and economic situation.

In recent years, Le Pen has tried to soften the profile of the National Front party founded by her father. The party has long faced accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.

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