France's Le Pen steps down as party leader

A day after mainstream parties were dealt a heavy defeat in the French presidential election, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, one of the two candidates to advance to a run-off, condemned the parties' calls to unite against her and support her rival, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.

"I'm on the ground to meet the French people to draw their attention to important subjects, including Islamist terrorism to which the least we can say Mr Macron is weak on", Le Pen told reporters. He said in her position, he would have done a "Trump-style" campaign that would have been "very aggressive against those who are responsible for the country's decadency".

Le Pen was booed by some workers in the fruits and vegetables section. That means Le Pen has already done better than in 2012, when she came in third in the presidential vote a year after taking over the National Front.

Macron and Le Pen face off May 7 in the French presidential runoff. Le Pen said she would not let the factory shut down at all and the state would, if she was elected, buy a stake in it if necessary.

Le Pen with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2007.

Macron was in his hometown of Amiens in northern France to try to counter accusations he had made a complacent start to campaigning after he finished ahead of Le Pen in the first round of the election on Sunday.

The second round of the French election may come amid more protests as minutes after the polls closed for the first round of the election on Sunday violent protests broke out on the Place de la Bastille in central Paris, where smoke grenades, flares and glass bottles were thrown at police and tear gas deployed on the protesters.

"We can not allow the slightest porosity with the Front National", he told Le Monde, warning the party risked foundering in parliamentary elections if it failed to keep its distance from the FN. Several of his supporters are unconvinced by his "fuzzy" agenda but back him only because they are not persuaded that Le Pen's new, relatively toned down image, is genuine. As the country's presidential race heats up, its far-right populist candidate has declared that she's ditching her party altogether to court the whole of France.

However, it's 88-year-old founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, criticised his daughter and said he would have campaigned differently.

According to BFMTV, on his way to meet with representatives from the workers union in the French Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Macron decided to make the trip down to the factory where about 60 employees have been striking since Monday against the factory leadership's plan to shift the plant's production to Poland.

"I have always considered that the President of the Republic is the President of all the French and must gather all the French, but it is necessary to translate words into action", she told France 2 public television on Monday.

  • Anthony Vega