PARIS – The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said late Friday that it has been subjected to a “massive and coordinated piracy action” of emails and other internal communications.
The announcement emerged as the last official day of campaigning in France’s most contentious presidential election in decades drew to a close. Macron, an independent centrist, is facing off against the far-right populist Marine Le Pen. Voters will decide Sunday which candidate becomes France’s next president.
At the end of a high-stakes race, the news immediately stoked fears of a targeted operation intended to destabilize the electoral process, especially after reports of alleged Russian hacking in the U.S. presidential election last November.
“Intervening in the last hour of the official campaign, this operation is obviously a democratic destabilization, as has already been seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” the Macron campaign said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the hacking, and the Macron campaign could not be reached for further comment late Friday.
“The ambition of the authors of this leak is obviously to harm the movement En Marche! in the final hours before the second of the French presidential election,” the Macron statement read. En Marche! (Onward) is the centrist political movement Macron founded a year ago.
The campaign said it would immediately file complaints with France’s National Campaign Accounts Committee (CNCCFP).
The Kremlin has clear links to the Le Pen campaign. For years, a complex web of financial ties has linked Le Pen to Russian lending sources, and she has received exceedingly positive coverage in Russian state media for months.
In late March, she met in person with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Moscow.
On Wednesday, hours before the beginning of a televised debate between Macron and Le Pen, Twitter bots spread rumors that Macron maintained offshore bank accounts. Le Pen then repeated the allegation in the debate, causing Macron to say that she was “subject to the diktats” of the Kremlin.
The specific contents of the documents leaked was not specified, although the campaign’s statement said that real documents – such as emails from personal and professional accounts, contracts, and accounting statements – were mixed along with false ones.
Unlike in the United States, campaigning in France comes to a hard stop a day before voters go to the polls. Candidates may not actively campaign in any way after the close of the campaign.
The disclosure of the documents just before the end of Friday means that Macron campaign will not be able to address the matter extensively on Saturday.
The latest polls still place Macron, a former investment banker and Socialist finance minister, with a considerable lead over Le Pen, at 63 percent to 37 percent of the vote.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · James Mcauley