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Macron blasts huge hacking attack

Le Pen says she ‘changed everything’

People gather in front of the home of the French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron in Le Touquet, northeastern France on May 6, a day before French voters go to the poles to chose between Macron, a pro-European centrist, and his far-right rival of the Front National (FN) party. (AFP

PARIS, May 6, (Agencies): French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s team blasted a “massive and coordinated hacking attack” against his campaign after a fl ood of internal documents were released online barely 24 hours before the election. The centrist candidate’s furious staff said the release late Friday of thousands of emails, accounting documents and other files was an attempt at “democratic destabilisation, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the United States”. The documents spread on social media just before midnight on Friday — when 39-year-old Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen officially wrapped up campaigning for Sunday’s decisive run-off vote — with his aides calling the leak “unprecedented in a French electoral campaign”. Hillary Clinton has alleged Russian hacking of her campaign’s emails was partly to blame for her defeat in last year’s US presidential election to Donald Trump. The leak, posted by someone calling themselves EMLEAKS, came as an 11th-hour twist in what has proved to be one of the most drama-packed elections in French history. Macron’s team said the files were stolen weeks ago when several officials from his En Marche party had their personal and work emails hacked — one of “an intense and repeated” series of cyber-attacks against Macron since the launch of the campaign. “Clearly, the documents arising from the hacking are all lawful and show the normal functioning of a presidential campaign,” aides said in a statement.

But they warned that whoever was behind the leak had mixed fake documents with real ones “in order to sow doubt and disinformation”. The WikiLeaks website posted a link on Twitter to the trove of documents, saying it was not responsible for the leak but that it was “examining” parts of the cache, amounting to around nine gigabytes of data in total. Last month cybersecurity research group Trend Micro said Russian hackers called Pawn Storm had targeted Macron’s campaign, using “phishing” techniques to try to steal personal data.

Senior Le Pen aide Florian Philippot suggested on Twitter that the leak might contain information that the media had deliberately suppressed. France’s presidential election commission advised media not to publish details of the documents, warning that publication could lead to criminal charges and that some of the documents were probably fake. The commission is due to meet later Saturday to discuss the hack.

The upset came at the end of a frantic final day of campaigning and as fresh security concerns emerged following the arrest of a suspected extremist. Polls released earlier Friday had showed Macron gaining momentum, forecasting victory for the pro-European, probusiness former banker with around 62 percent to 38 percent for Le Pen. Meanwhile, French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen told The Associated Press on Friday that whether or not she wins Sunday’s election, she and the populist wave that swept her to the presidential runoff have shaken France’s political landscape and a “gigantic political force has been born.” France, she said, will not be the same.

In an interview Friday in her Paris headquarters hours before campaigning closed, Le Pen said there could be “a surprise” in the results of Sunday’s runoff even though polls show her trailing by a large margin against independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. From the political landscape to ideology, French politics have undergone a massive change, Le Pen said. She suggested there’s no turning back to the traditional left-right divide that has defined French political life for generations. “Maybe there is going to be a surprise that will belie opinion polls,” she said. “We moved everything, we have changed everything already. The old traditional parties have all been blackballed. Even if we don’t reach our goal, in any event there is a gigantic political force that has been born.” It’s a “major political force that has replaced the old parties,” she said. Candidates for the mainstream right, The Republicans, and the governing Socialists were among the nine people eliminated in the April 23 first-round vote. That left Le Pen, 48, and Macron, 39, who formed his own political movement less than a year ago, to contend for the job of chief of state. Le Pen says she wants to wrench power from the elite and return it to the people of France, the have-nots of globalization. “The recomposing of French political life is, in any event, en marche (in motion),” she said, using the name of Macron’s political movement, “En March.” Macron “participated in the change,” she said. “He is the fusion between the PS (Socialist Party) and the Republicans” on the right,” Le Pen said. He is “the system and we are the people.” Le Pen wants to take France out of the European Union and NATO and stop using the euro currency shared by 19 nations. She wants a sovereign nation in charge of itself and its borders — which she sees as a hole in the garden fence that allows immigrants and others to enter.

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