Le Pen accused of plagiarising speech made by defeated candidate

Campaign officials have acknowledged the similarities, describing them as a 'nod-and-a-wink' to the earlier speech

Le Pen accused of plagiarising speech made by defeated candidate

Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, gives a speech to delegates at Parc Exposition Villepinte, Paris, on May Day. Picture by: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

Marine Le Pen, the French far-right presidential candidate, has been accused of plagiarism after one of her campaign speeches contained several similarities to an earlier speech by defeated presidential hopeful Francois Fillon.

Mr Fillon - the candidate for the conservative Republican party - was eliminated from the race after finishing third in last month's run-off election, which saw Ms Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron progress to the second and final round.

A number of commentators have pointed out similarities between a May Day speech given by Ms Le Pen yesterday, and one given by Mr Fillon on April 15th.

Both candidates spoke about the issue of French borders, and several passages were repeated almost verbatim by the far-right candidate.

References to France's "three maritime borders" (with the Atlantic, North Sea and English Channel) and "Italy, our sister" were common across both speeches, The Guardian reports.

In addition, a quote from French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau was also common across both speeches. It states: "Once a soldier of God, and now a soldier of Liberty, France will always be the soldier of the ideal."

Members of the Le Pen campaign have acknowledged and defended the similarities.

In comments quoted by Reuters, the National Front party's Florian Philippot said they "completely owned up" to the resemblance, describing yesterday's speech as a "nod-and-a-wink" to Mr Fillon's earlier remarks.

David Rachline, Ms Le Pen's campaign manager, told French media the repeated lines were appreciated by "Mr Fillon's supporters".

Ms Le Pen has temporarily stood aside as the leader of the National Front ahead of the second round vote, which takes place on Sunday.

Mr Macron is currently leading in opinion polls by around 20 points. However, the gap between the two candidates has narrowed by several points in recent weeks.

Many Macron supporters have voiced concerns that high abstention rates could swing the vote in Ms Le Pen's favour.

Many groups and individuals - including the defeated leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon - have refused to support either candidate.

Alongside the objections to Ms Le Pen's hardline policy pledges, Mr Macron is seen by many voters as 'more of the same'.

While the centrist candidate has risen to prominence under the independent 'En Marche!' banner, he was previously an economic minister under current French President Francois Hollande.