Le Pen speech plagiarism 'a wink to former candidate Fillon'

Traditional May 1 union marches turned violent in France yesterday and presidential election frontrunner Emmanuel Macron attacked far-right rival Marine Le Pen, highlighting the divisions six days before the runoff.

France votes for a new president on Sunday (Monday NZ Time), a ballot being watched closely by financial markets and France's neighbours as a test of the global populist wave.

In fact, Florian Philippot, the deputy leader of Le Pen's Front National party, admitted the French presidential front-runner indeed picked up complete phrases from Fillon's speech, however, as a "nod-and-a-wink" to his description of the French identity.

A peaceful May Day union march in the French capital quickly turned into a risky assault on law and order officers, forcing them to retaliate with tear gas and truncheons.

'One officer suffered serious burns to the face just after 3pm.

As is tradition, French workers take the spotlight on May 1 in Paris.

Ridicule TV said the far-right presidential candidate had plagiarised Fillon's speech "word for word" and set the two speeches side by side, inviting viewers to make up their own minds.

Protesters, police, and politics collided on the streets of Paris.

There were five arrests in all.

France's far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen faced accusations of plagiarism today after delivering a speech that was remarkably similar to an earlier address by one of her defeated rivals.

"Not one or the other; instead it's the people's self-defence" read one sign.

While Macron is favoured in the polls, a high abstention rate or a blank protest ballot could help Le Pen. Some groups want a united front to keep Le Pen from the presidency, but unions fear Macron will dismantle worker protections.

Mr Fillon has urged voters to back Mr Macron.

This is where Jean-Marie Le Pen traditionally held his May Day rallies but this year's event was attended by only a couple of hundred of the party's old guard, BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield reports.

A water cannon was deployed and tear gas filled the air on the sidelines of the march as masked youths threw Molotov cocktails at security forces.

Also on Monday, Ms Le Pen's estranged 88-year-old father and the founder of the FN was at a rally by the statue of Joan of Arc, a long-time symbol of patriotism for the FN.

He said: "She is not Joan of Arc but she accepts the same mission. France", Jean-Marie Le Pen said. The comment was a reference to Macron's time as economy minister under the unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Between them Le Pen and Macron gathered only 45 percent of votes in that round, which eliminated nine other candidates.

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