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Saturday, May 6, 2017, 11:51

Macron team says hit by hack

By Agencies

Macron team says hit by hack
A municipal police officer walks near election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, left, and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, in Saint Jean Pied de Port, southwestern France, Friday May 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

PARIS — The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said it suffered a "massive and coordinated" hacking attack and document leak that it called a bid to destabilize Sunday's presidential runoff.

His far-right rival Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, told The Associated Press that she believes she can pull off a surprise victory in the high-stakes vote that could change Europe's direction.

Fears of hacking, fake news manipulation and Russian meddling clouded the French campaign but had largely gone unrealized — until late Friday's admission by Macron's campaign that it had suffered a coordinated online pirate attack had led to the leak of campaign emails and financial documents. It was unclear who was behind the hack and the leak.

A campaign blackout starting minutes after the Macron team announcement means that Le Pen's campaign can't legally comment on the leak.

Macron's En Marche movement said the the leaked documents have been mixed with false documents to "seed doubt and disinformation" and destabilize Sunday's presidential runoff

In a statement, Macron's En Marche movement said the hack took place a few weeks ago, and that the leaked documents have been mixed with false documents to "seed doubt and disinformation" and destabilize Sunday's presidential runoff. Hillary Clinton's US presidential campaign suffered similar leaks, and also said that authentic documents were mixed with false documents.

The timing of the leak could be seen as either bizarre or inspired.

The documents' release just before France enters a roughly two-day-long blackout - during which politicians, journalists and even ordinary citizens are meant to pull back from any public election talk to avoid swaying the vote - means that the leak may have very little impact beyond the overheated world of Twitter and Reddit.

On the other hand, the messages' release just before France's political machinery shuts down for the weekend might mean that talk of the leak - regardless of its veracity - will dominate dinner table conversations as French voters make up their minds Saturday.

The candidates stopped campaigning at midnight Friday to give voters a day of reflection before the election. It's a stark choice: Le Pen's anti-immigration, anti-European Union platform, or Macron's progressive, pro-EU stance.

Tensions marred the race right to the end.

France's presidential voting watchdog called on the Interior Ministry late Friday to look into claims by the Le Pen campaign that ballot papers are being tampered with nationwide to benefit Macron. The Le Pen campaign said electoral administrators in several regions who receive ballot papers for both candidates have found the Le Pen ballot "systematically torn up."

Earlier in the day, anti-Le Pen crowds disrupted her visit to a renowned cathedral in Reims.

The presidential campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and candidates insulting each other on national television — a reflection of the widespread public disaffection with politics as usual.

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