HomeFT SelectMacron campaign hit by ‘massive’ online hacking attack

Macron campaign hit by ‘massive’ online hacking attack

The campaign team of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said late on Friday night that it had been the victim of a “massive and co-ordinated” hacking operation.

Nine gigabytes of data were posted online to Pastebin, a document-sharing site that allows anonymous posting, Reuters reported. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for posting the data.

Voters are preparing to go to the polls on Sunday to choose the country’s next president in a run-off between the centrist Mr Macron and far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

In a statement, Mr Macron’s political movement En Marche confirmed that it had been hacked.

“The En Marche movement has been the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information,” the statement said.

En Marche said the documents released online showed only the normal functionings of a presidential campaign, but that authentic documents had been mixed on social media with fake ones to sow “doubt and misinformation”.

A French interior ministry official declined to comment, citing French rules which forbid any commentary liable to influence an election, and which took effect at midnight French time on Friday.

Earlier, Mr Macron had completed France’s most unconventional presidential campaign since the second world war brimming with confidence that he would secure a resounding victory over Ms Le Pen.

The 39-year-old political novice, who has never held elected office and is running as an independent, said on Friday that he had already decided who to appoint as his prime minister, reflecting growing confidence in his camp that he will easily see off Ms Le Pen.

Mr Macron, who deftly fended off attacks from his challenger in a crucial televised debate on Wednesday, appeared to get the better of the final day of campaigning on Friday as Ms Le Pen was booed by protesters as she visited the cathedral in Reims in northern France. Four separate polls gave him a 24-point lead over Ms Le Pen, his best margin to date.

The election is a head-on clash between two radically different visions for France and its place in the world. Ms Le Pen, arguing that unchecked globalisation is hurting ordinary French people, is proposing to leave the euro and put up trade barriers. Mr Macron wants closer European co-operation and an open economy.

A heavy defeat for Ms Le Pen would suggest the populist tide that has swept through the west over the past year — with the election of Donald Trump in the US and the UK to vote to leave the EU — is receding. Ms Le Pen has repeatedly said that France would be the third domino in the populist fightback against the out-of-touch elites.

Regardless of which vision of society emerges the victor on Sunday, the election has already seen an unprecedented series of twists, with the once frontrunner struck with an embezzlement scandal and the complete disintegration of France’s two mainstream political parties. 

The rise of Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen has raised questions about the future of the ruling Socialist and the centre-right Republicans party, whose candidates failed to qualify for Sunday’s second-round runoff. Both parties are licking their wounds and preparing to regain their place in French political life at the legislative elections in June.

On Friday, there were growing signs that Mr Macron and his supporters were also looking ahead to the National Assembly election, openly considering how his En Marche! party, founded just a year ago, could win a majority in parliament necessary to push through his political programme.

Mr Macron told RTL radio he had decided on his prime minister, saying it would be someone with political experience who could “lead a parliamentary majority”. He insisted that En Marche!, which does not have a single seat in the outgoing parliament, would be able to win the legislative elections.

François Bayrou, a former centrist candidate turned Macron adviser, dismissed as “absurd” the idea that En Marche! might have to govern in coalition with the centre-right or the left. He said the party will have a “clear majority”.

For a majority, Mr Macron would need En Marche! to win 290 seats. An Opinionway-SLPV Analytics poll on Thursday found that En Marche could get between 249 and 286 seats in June.

Meanwhile, Ms Le Pen of the National Front (FN) was attempting to recover from the debate, which crystallised criticism from many in her own camp about weaknesses in her campaign. Party figures including Gilbert Collard, an MP, and Guy Deballe, an FN official, said the debate could have been stronger, adding to private party recriminations about Ms Le Pen’s showing.

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In an attempt to regain the initiative, Ms Le Pen spent Thursday in a town of just 220 inhabitants in the deindustrialised north, hammering home the message that she was the candidate of “real France” and Mr Macron of the urban elite.

While polls put Mr Macron well in the lead, there was still concern in his campaign that voters might not turn out if they thought his victory was assured. High levels of abstention would probably help the FN, whose supporters are more likely to vote.

Acknowledging the risk that his support could be weak, Mr Macron called on people to vote, saying: “In the second round, you choose the candidate who perhaps was not your first choice.”

The official campaign ended on Friday at midnight. No polls or statements by candidates are then allowed until preliminary results are announced at 8pm on Sunday.

Marine Le Pen at a campaign in Ennemain on Thursday © Bloomberg

Via FT