Paris attack could influence undecided voters in presidential election

French fund managers hope for Macron

French fund managers hope for Macron

It was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday before a shootout on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue that left a police officer dead and was claimed by the Islamic State.

Police securing the area after a gunman opened fire on the Champs Elysees in Paris, killing a police officer, April 20, 2017.

The effort to slow down Macron has been conducted by both state-owned Russian media outlets like RT and Sputnik - both of whom set up French outposts in recent years - as well as less official channels like far right blogs, Twitter bots and troll farms, all of which are used to amplify the message from Moscow.

French President Francois Hollande said it seemed to be "of a terrorist nature".

The European project will face its next test on Sunday, as the people of France head to the polls to participate in the first round of the French presidential elections.

But even leaving out the potential impact on voter sentiment of the latest deadly attack in a series that has hit France in the past two years, neither was totally assured a spot in the May 7 runoff round. This time, polls suggest that any one of four candidates might make it into the second round, and two of those are from the Eurosceptic, protectionist extremes: Marine Le Pen, on the far right, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on the far left. He took a swipe at Le Pen for systematically linking immigration and terrorism, and said Fillon's promise to recruit more police was not credible as he had destroyed police and army jobs when he was President Nicolas Sarkozy's prime minister. In a nation that has seen almost 240 people killed by ISIS-related terror attacks, her message has resonated, and she has held steady support from approximately one-quarter of the country.

At a televised news conference Friday, Le Pen called for the closure of all Islamist mosques in France, the expulsion of hate preachers and the reinstatement of French borders. "Despite this big difference, she wins the election with 50.02-percent at the end of the day", political scientist Serge Galam said. "This is the end of naiveté".

Fillon, Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron canceled planned campaign events after the shooting. He was also convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in the shootings of two police officers.

France's presidential election race has been a volatile spectacle, as unexpected candidates have surged into the limelight while scandals involving some have made the outcome uncertain.

Francis Kalifat, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, added his voice to the many condemnations of the attack. Victory for either could, in the wake of the Brexit vote, deliver a possibly knockout punch to the stated EU ambition of ever-closer union between the peoples of Europe because both want to tear up agreements that bind together the 28 EU states.

The one thing that can be certain is that Le Pen could capitalize on this attack as a further justification for her presidency. "It makes it more likely that Le Pen will qualify and means a slightly better chance that Fillon could qualify too", Webber said.

"It's possible that there will be three names at 8 p.m. on Sunday and that the two who qualify will be clear only later", Fillon's campaign chief of staff Vincent Chriqui said in an interview.

Conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon also spoke on Friday, saying that the fight against "Islamist totalitarianism" should be the priority of France's next president. Cazeneuve added that the attack was not immigration-related, according to Reuters, and must not derail France's election.