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Le Pen Refuses To Endorse Rival Candidates
She may be out of the presidential race herself but French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has used her political power to influence the outcome.
She is refusing to endorse either remaining candidate and telling her six million supporters to make their own choice in Sunday's ballot.
The move will be a particular blow to Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, who hoped the backing of Le Pen's supporters would take him ahead of his rival and current front-runner, Socialist Francois Hollande.
But the champion of the National Front, Ms Le Pen, told a rally in Paris that she planned to spoil her ballot paper in the vote.
"I will not grant my trust, or a mandate, to these two candidates," she told supporters at a May Day event in the capital.
"On Sunday, I will cast a blank ballot."
While stopping short of telling her followers to do likewise, she said: "I have made my choice, each of you will make yours."
Le Pen won 18% of the vote in the first round last month and Mr Sarkozy has been desperately wooing her supporters ever since, with bullish talk about cutting immigration and withholding voting rights from foreign citizens.
But polls suggest many of them will vote for him only begrudgingly and not in sufficient numbers to secure him victory.
Mr Sarkozy reacted with predictable defiance, pledging to "fight to the last second of the last minute because I love France" at his own rally in the capital, which drew tens of thousands of people.
But reality is now staring the incumbent in the face. Mr Sarkozy is the most unpopular president to seek re-election and the first in more than 50 years to fail to finish ahead in the first round vote.
Economic woes count against him and his attempts to woo the far right have alienated many centre-ground voters.
He used his May Day speech to renew his call for hard work in difficult times - a message derided by Francois Hollande at a time when unemployment is at a 12-year high.
The Socialist candidate, who has a lead of between six and 10 points going into a critical televised debate between the two men on Wednesday, has profited from disillusionment with his opponent's economic record.
Mr Hollande steered clear of the French capital on what is traditionally a day of public demonstration by workers and the unions.
He knows he has the left's support. What he needs to cement his position as front-runner are those to the centre and the right, including Le Pen's backers.
And, incredibly, the Socialist may get some from the National Front on board. Almost half of them say they will back Mr Sarkozy, while half say they will abstain or vote for Mr Hollande.
Hard to imagine a few weeks ago.