In France What happened today in the presidential race

With two weeks to go before the first vote in France's rollercoaster presidential election, protesters disrupted a rally by far-right leader Marine Le Pen, while a poll showed the gap between the top four candidates narrowing.

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French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen gestures as she delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Palais des Congres in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica on April 8, 2017 play

French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen gestures as she delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Palais des Congres in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica on April 8, 2017

(AFP)
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With two weeks to go before the first vote in France's rollercoaster presidential election, protesters disrupted a rally by far-right leader Marine Le Pen, while a poll showed the gap between the top four candidates narrowing.

Here's what happened in the campaign on Saturday:

Scuffles at Le Pen rally

Scuffles broke out in a meeting room where Le Pen was due to speak on the island of Corsica, after security staff from her National Front party tried to eject around a dozen young Corsican nationalist protesters.

Tear gas was set off as punches were thrown, forcing staff to evacuate the room. Le Pen eventually had to hold the rally at a different location in Ajaccio, the capital of the Mediterranean island just off the coast of Italy.

The protesters had shouted "a Francia fora" ("France get out" in Corsican) and the separatist group Ghjuventu Indipendentista claimed responsibility for the disruption on Twitter.

"We can't accept the National Front candidate coming to our territory to spread her message, which is stamped with the seal of hate and straightforward anti-Corsicanism," the group wrote.

"We would never allow this party, whose former leader (Le Pen's father Jean-Marie) demanded the death penalty for Corsican political prisoners, safe passage in our country."

The National Liberation Front of Corsica (FNLC) ran a brutal campaign of bombings and assassinations from 1976 to 2014. But today's nationalists are trying a peaceful approach to power, having performed strongly in regional elections in 2015.

Race tightens at top

Several opinion polls show a tightening race between the top four candidates, with support for frontrunners Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron slipping back and conservative Francois Fillon neck-and-neck with Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left.

A poll by BVA Salesforce showed acid-tongued Melenchon jumping by four points in a week to 19 percent of first-round voting intentions -- the same as Fillon, who was once considered the favourite but has seen his ratings hit by a string of expenses scandals.

Ahead of the first round on April 23, Macron and Le Pen both hold 23 percent of voting intentions, according to the poll -- just four points ahead of their other two rivals in one of the most unpredictable French elections in decades.

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