Sat May 6, 2017 6:30AM
This file photo taken on April 26, 2017 in Arras shows French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron gesturing as he gives a speech during a meeting ahead of the second and final round of the presidential election. (By AFP)
This file photo taken on April 26, 2017 in Arras shows French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron gesturing as he gives a speech during a meeting ahead of the second and final round of the presidential election. (By AFP)

The campaign of leading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says he has been the target of a “massive and coordinated hacking attack” following the release of what it said to be the campaign’s internal documents online just ahead of the election.

Late Friday, Macron’s campaign staff said the “cyber attack” led to the release of thousands of emails and other documents, slamming it as an attempt at “democratic destabilization, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the United States.”

According to local press reports, nearly nine gigabytes of data were posted on a profile called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing.

However, it was not immediately clear who was responsible for posting the data or whether any of the information was genuine.

An electoral card next to ballots for French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron (L), and French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National Marine Le Pen and on a ballot box at a polling station in Rennes, western France. (Photo by AFP)

In a statement, Macron’s political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) confirmed that it had been hacked.

It issued a statement saying, “The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and coordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information.”

The campaign files spread on social media shortly before midnight on Friday. when the 39-year-old, centrist Macron and his ultra-right rival Marine Le Pen officially concluded political campaigning for Sunday’s presidential poll. Macron’s aides slammed the leak as “unprecedented in a French electoral campaign.”

“Clearly, the documents arising from the hacking are all lawful and show the normal functioning of a presidential campaign,” Macron’s aides declared in a statement.

French presidential candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen (Photo by AFP)

This is while the pro-European Union and pro-business former banker is leading his anti-establishment rival with a comfortable margin of nearly 62 percent to 38 percent, according to latest polls.

Le Pen has said she wants to copy Britain’s example and hold a referendum on France’s EU membership, prompting serious concerns in capitals across the bloc.

A former economy minister under Socialist President Francois Hollande, Macron is a pro-trade reformer, who left the government last August to concentrate on his new political movement En Marche, which has drawn 250,000 members in 12 months.

Meanwhile, a French Interior Ministry official refused to comment on the hacking, citing French rules that forbid any commentary likely to influence an election.

Moreover, the presidential election commission said in a statement that it would hold a meeting later on Saturday after Macron’s campaign informed the body about the reported hacking attack.

The commission further called on the media to be cautious about publishing details of the emails considering that campaigning had ended, and publication could lead to criminal charges.

France is the latest nation to see a major election overshadow by allegations of manipulation through cyber hacking.

In January, US intelligence agencies accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering the hacking of parties linked to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a bid to influence the polls on behalf of her Republican rival Donald Trump.