Judges investigating far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's alleged misuse of EU funds have asked for her European parliamentary immunity to be lifted. MEPs have already lifted her immunity in a separate case.
With just nine days to go until the French presidential election, the legal woes of far-right candidate and leader of the National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen took yet another twist on Friday.
According to a judicial source, French prosecutors investigating Le Pen's alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay for party assistants have asked for her European parliamentary immunity to be lifted.
Signed on March 29 and filed with the prosecutor's office and the justice ministry, the request is unlikely, however, to be approved by European lawmakers before the April 23 election.
Asked on franceinfo TV station whether she would call on MEPs to reject the request, Le Pen said: "It's a debate that we will have at the European parliament's legal committee" and declined to comment further.
Le Pen was already stripped of her parliamentary immunity in a separate case last month. The move allowed a Paris court to prosecute her for posting images of "Islamic State" (IS) brutality on Twitter in 2015.
According to some analysts, Le Pen's refusal to go to a police summons over the EU funds allegations may have played a role in declining support for the right-wing populist in recent weeks.
An Ipsos poll published on Sunday sees Le Pen make the second round of the presidential election with 22 percent of the vote. However, the FN frontwoman looks likely to lose out in the run-off to independent Emmanuel Macron with 63 percent.
Opinion polls had a huge shake-up this week after far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon enjoyed a surge in support. Once a distant fifth in the running for the French presidency, the Communist-backed candidate's trademark quick wit and eloquent anti-capitalist discourse delivered over two televised debates have catapulted him into third in the polls.
Shift to the political fringes
This year's French election has been characterized as a contest between the traditional center-ground and a wave of anti-establishment populism. Economic stagnation and lackluster job growth have shifted support, however, toward what were once considered the fringes of the spectrum.