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Hacking attack against presidential candidate in France followed by the U.S.

Hacking attack against presidential candidate in France followed by the U.S.

Posted May. 08, 2017 07:19,   

Updated May. 08, 2017 07:29


As the French presidential election results will be announced in two days, a final twist came when personal emails of Emmanuel Macron, presidential candidate of a new moderate party En Marche, and financial files of the party amounting to about 9GB were hacked and revealed. Macron led in the election poll. The hacked documents with the hashtag #MacronLeaks started trending worldwide via social networking sites hours before Saturday midnight when official election campaigning ends, and the hashtag was shared 47,000 times in three and a half hours. It is assumed that the attack was planned in advance considering that candidates cannot explain for days starting from Saturday until the election is over.

As the impact of hacking continues to rise, about 46 million French voters began to decide their next leader between Macron and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front (FN) at 67,000 polling stations across the country from 8 a.m. Sunday (local time). The 2017 French presidential election is the first run-off election that the two dominant French political parties — the Republicans (the right political party) and the Socialist Party (left socialist party) — were eliminated in the first round of the vote. Both parties ruled modern French politics for 59 years since the launch of the Fifth Republic of France. No matter who wins the presidential election — a first French president to be elected in his 30s or the first far-right female president, it is certain that he or she will rewrite the history of French politics.

France’s election campaign commission has ordered the media not to report the details of hacked emails and documents immediately after the release and warned that they could be punished when such documents are published or copied for the purpose of spreading the news. Another problem is that much of information leaked contain faked documents. Incumbent French President Francois Hollande has promised a response to the hacking. Thus, it appears that the back blast of hacking would be continued after the election.

Some observe that hackers may be linked to Russia as the process and behavior of hacking are similar to the leak of emails between U.S. democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her key campaigner during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Financial Times quoted the web analysis company Trend Micro and pointed out "APT28" as the prime suspect who led the hacking of the Democratic Party last year and supported by the Kremlin spy agency. Evidences supporting that the leaked excel documents from Mr. Macron’s campaign had been modified on a Russian version of Excel and edited on Russian-language computers were found.

On the last day of announcing opinion polls, Macron had a big lead over Le Pen in the three opinion polls on Friday by 24 to 26 percentage points. It appears that a bitter television debate on last Wednesday, in which Macron prevailed upon her, helped Macron to increase his approval rating. In an opinion poll conducted by Ipsos Sopra Steria and Le Monde on Friday, Macron took the lead by a large margin. Macron’s approval rating increased by 4 percentage points and recorded 63 percent and Le Pen’s approval rating was 37 percent, decreased by 4 percentage points.

Macron has already begun to draw a big picture after seizing power. In an interview with RTL on Friday, Mr. Macron said that he has decided next prime minister already and the prime minister would be a person with much political experience, capable of transforming his party into a majority party in the general election. The French media mentioned on former Education Minister Francois Bayrou or current Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as the strongest candidates. Mr. Bayrou is a representative moderate politician and ran for president three times and Mr. Le Drian is popular among moderates and leftists.

The biggest variable of the French presidential election is the turnout of voters. A researcher at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales predicted that Le Pen may win the election by a close call when supporters of Macron casted abstention votes significantly. He made headlines when he predicted that Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election last year. About 25 percent of voters still said they would cast a blank ballot in the last opinion poll. Hence, if the turnout was low, it would be favorable to Le Pen with loyal voters.

In a nutshell, opinion polls show that Macron, who favors the EU and free trade, is popular among educated, high income, city dwellers. Le Pen, who stresses the withdrawal from the Eurozone and protectionism, is largely supported by uneducated, unemployed local residents aged younger than 25.

Jung-Min Dong ditto@donga.com