Le Pen’s Party Says HQ Raided in Parliamentary Aides Case

  • Party characterizes search as ‘media operation’ to harm vote
  • Latest polls show Le Pen narrowing 2nd-round gap on rivals

Le Pen Gains Ground in French Polls as Opponents Stumble

French investigators searched the headquarters of the National Front as part of a probe into whether party leader Marine Le Pen used European Parliament money to pay for jobs related to domestic politics.

In a statement, the party characterized the search as “a media operation whose only goal is to disrupt the smooth operation of” Le Pen’s presidential campaign “at a moment when she’s made major advances in the polls.”

The European Parliament has ordered Le Pen to repay the amount, estimating the improper payments at 336,146 euros ($357,000). She has refused to give the money back, saying the jobs weren’t fictitious, and has appealed the decision. French prosecutors who got a report from the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, have opened a legal probe of their own.

A year ago, the FN’s offices in Nanterre, a few kilometers west of Paris, were raided as part of the same probe opened by Paris prosecutors in March 2015.

Meanwhile, Monday’s daily OpinionWay poll showed that first-round support the for anti-euro, anti-immigration Le Pen rose 1 percentage point to 27 percent, with independent Emmanuel Macron and Republican Francois Fillon unchanged at 20 percent each.

While no survey so far has shown Le Pen even close to a victory in the run-off, she’s quickly narrowing the gap to her rivals. OpinionWay showed Macron would defeat Le Pen by 58 percent to 42 percent in the May 7 second round. His advantage has halved in less than two weeks.

Le Pen isn’t the only candidate with legal issues. Fillon is being probed over whether his wife actually worked while she was on the French parliament’s payroll.

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