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France Demands Lifting Le Pen’s Immunity over Financial Scandal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, attends a political rally in Pageas, France April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French prosecutors have asked the European parliament to lift the immunity of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen over an expenses scandal,legal sources said Friday.If lifted Le Pen will need to answer and cooperate with a thorough financial probe.

The move comes just nine days before France heads to the polls for a highly unpredictable vote with Le Pen, who heads the anti-EU, anti-immigration National Front (FN), one of the frontrunners in the April 23 first round.

The request was made at the end of last month after Le Pen, who is a member of the European Parliament (MEP), invoked her parliamentary immunity in refusing to attend questioning by investigating magistrates.

The prosecutors also made a similar request regarding another MEP from Le Pen’s party, Marie-Christine Boutonnet, who also avoided questioning.

Le Pen, who has presented the investigation as a plot to derail her presidential bid, shrugged off the move, saying it was “normal”.

“It’s totally normal procedure, I’m not surprised,” she told France Info radio.

When addressing her plans for economic policy, the Far-right National Front presidential candidate says France’s GDP growth would accelerate to 2.5 percent toward the end of her first term if she wins the upcoming election.

Le Pen wants to drop the euro currency, a move that would throw the future of the European single currency into doubt, and vows to re-negotiate France’s relationship with the European Union, promising a referendum on EU membership if those talks fail.

As for the polls, they still show Le Pen and centrist independent Emmanuel Macron leading the field on around 22-24 percent each, Fillon and radical Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon are closing in on them, on around 18-20 percent each.

A veteran leftist and eurosceptic famous for his mass rallies and fiery speeches, Melenchon has surged from behind on a platform of massive spending increases and a threat to pull out of key EU treaties.

The two leaders of the first round will go through to a decisive run-off on May 7.

Surveys show Le Pen would be beaten by any of the other three main contenders at the final hurdle but analysts have warned of a possible upset, after Britain’s shock vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election in the US, both of which pollsters failed to predict.