A scandal undermining the centre-right candidate Francois Fillon has changed the picture but not the outlook for the French presidential election: polls suggest that National Front leader Marine LePen will win the first round but lose to centrist independent Emmanuel Macron in a probable second round, set for May 7.
Europe's migration crisis and Britain's exit from the European Union give the far-right Le Pen an edge, but there appears to be little prospect that she can capture the 50-plus per cent lead she would need against four rivals for a first-round win.
Her main rival now is Macron, a former economy minister, who pledges to modernise the French economy. He says he wants to make France daring -- and innovative.
The centre-right Republican Fillon lost support over allegations that he arranged taxpayer-funded jobs for his family that they never performed.
The sluggish economy, continuing high unemployment and a series of labour reforms that have caused street protests have almost taken the governing Socialists out of the race. The Socialist candidate, former education minister Benoit Hamon, has outlined a plan to introduce a universal income. He would roll it out initially to those on a modest income, according to the BBC, and would expand it to all French citizens some time after 2022.
Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has the backing of the Communists, rounds out the field.
Le Pen and the Nationalists can be expected to play on the country's fear of Islamists and migrants following major terror attacks in January and November 2015. She is certain to call for a French referendum on leaving the European Union if she wins.
Date written/update: 2017-03-14