local governments that her party controls, mostly in depressed areas in the north and south of France.

In La Trinité-sur-Mer, she introduced Mr. de Kersauson, the former Alcatel executive, as the head of her party’s ticket in next month’s regional elections. Getting more defectors from the center-right — who are financially better off than the National Rally’s traditional backers, but who are also feeling unsettled by the social changes rippling through France — is one key to victory next year.

reported — killed one of her cats.

Ms. Le Pen said that dog was gentle, as had been her father’s Dobermans. “We shouldn’t indulge in caricatures,” she said. “Dobermans have a vicious image, but, in fact, they’re very gentle dogs.”

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Far-Right French Leader Marine Le Pen Acquitted Over ISIS Tweets

PARIS — Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader, was acquitted on Tuesday in a criminal case involving graphic photographs of acts of violence by the Islamic State that she posted on Twitter in 2015 after comparisons were drawn between the group and her party.

Ms. Le Pen, the head of the National Rally party, was acquitted by a court in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. The charge against her — the dissemination of violent messages — carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros, about $90,000, but prosecutors had only sought a fine of €5,000.

Rodolphe Bosselut, Ms. Le Pen’s lawyer in the case, said, “The court judged that by publishing the photos, she was exercising her freedom of expression.” He added that the ruling underlined that the posts clearly were not Islamic State propaganda and had an “informative value” instead.

Prosecutors opened their investigation in December 2015, shortly after Ms. Le Pen — furious over a televised interview in which a French journalist compared her party to the Islamic State — posted three pictures on Twitter that showed killings carried out by the group. One showed the body of James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and later beheaded by the group.

deleted that post after criticism from Mr. Foley’s family, but the two other pictures, which showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a tank and a prisoner being burned alive in a cage, remained online.

“Daesh is THAT!” she wrote, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS.

The pictures — posted just weeks after a string of deadly terrorist attacks in and around Paris — caused outrage in France.

Ms. Le Pen lost to President Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 election in France, and her party has a limited presence in Parliament. But she is still seen as Mr. Macron’s main opponent on the national political scene, and the verdict will most likely help her prospects in presidential elections next year, with early polls suggesting that she will again face Mr. Macron in a runoff.

The killing of a police officer by a radicalized Tunisian man last month in a town southwest of Paris has fueled a resurgent debate about terrorism, security and immigration, all themes that have fed the rise of Ms. Le Pen’s far-right party, despite Mr. Macron’s attempts to court voters on those issues.

appeared increasingly fragile, and Ms. Le Pen has spent years trying to soften her image and pull her party from the extremist fringe into the mainstream.

Unlike other French politicians who have recently been convicted on serious charges like corruption or embezzlement, Ms. Le Pen was prosecuted under a more obscure article in the French penal code that prohibits disseminating messages that are “violent” or that could “seriously harm human dignity” and that could be seen by a minor.

While there is robust support for freedom of expression, laws regulating free speech in France are often considered more restrictive than in the United States, with laws against calls to violence or hate speech.

Ms. Le Pen has called the investigation a political witch hunt aimed at silencing her, arguing that she was being wrongly prosecuted for exercising her free speech, on charges normally meant to protect minors from violent propaganda or pornography.

“The crime is causing harm to human dignity, not its photographic reproduction,” she said during the trial, held in February.

Gilbert Collard, a lawyer and National Rally representative in the European Parliament who had also posted pictures of Islamic State violence on the same day as Ms. Le Pen did, was acquitted of the charges against him on Tuesday, too.

The court’s verdict on Ms. Le Pen comes amid an increasingly heated political climate in France, ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for next year but also regional elections this June.

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France Weighs an Anti-Terrorism Bill as Insecurity Widens a Political Fracture

PARIS — The French government, responding to several attacks over the past seven months, presented a new anti-terrorism bill on Wednesday that would allow intense algorithmic surveillance of phone and internet communications and tighten restrictions on convicted terrorists emerging from prison.

Prepared before the latest terrorist attack — the fatal stabbing five days ago of a police employee by a radicalized Tunisian immigrant — the bill assumed greater urgency in a country where feelings of insecurity have spread.

“There have been nine attacks in a row that we could not detect through current means,” Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, told France Inter radio. “We continue to be blind, doing surveillance on normal phone lines that nobody uses any longer.”

The draft bill, prepared by Mr. Darmanin, came in a political and social climate envenomed by Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, who applauded a letter published this month by 20 retired generals that described France as being in a state of “disintegration” and warned of a possible coup in thinly veiled terms.

Ms. Parly said on Twitter, alluding to the far right leader’s candidacy in the presidential election next year.

She continued: “The politicization of the armed forces suggested by Ms. Le Pen would weaken our military and therefore France itself. The armed forces are not there to campaign but to defend France and protect the French.”

The defense minister said the retired officers involved could be disciplined, and checks were being conducted to verify whether any active-service military personnel were involved.

The letter, published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup by generals opposed to France’s granting independence to Algeria, amounted to a distillation of the extreme right’s conviction that France is being torn apart by the kind of violence that last week killed the police officer, Stéphanie Monfermé. Her assailant’s position of having been in France illegally for a decade before regularizing his status only fueled the right’s ire.

The retired generals alluded to the “suburban hordes” — a derogatory reference to the mainly Muslim immigrants gathered in aging tower-block developments around major French cities — who they said were detaching segments of the nation “to transform them into territories subject to dogmas opposed to our Constitution.”

One such dogma, they made clear, was “Islamism” and another rampant “racialism” — a word used often in France to denounce the importation from the United States of forms of identity politics that see issues through the prism of race.

Ms. Le Pen has been engaged in what French commentators call a “banalization” operation aimed at making her look more mainstream. Her outburst clearly did not help this effort. An attempted pivot in a radio interview, in which she said that all problems should be solved peacefully, betrayed her unease.

Mr. Darmanin’s draft bill would, if approved by Parliament, pave the way for increased use of computer algorithms that allow the automatic processing of data from phones and web addresses to detect potential terror threats. This use, patchy and experimental until now, would be enshrined in law, and intelligence services would be able to keep the data for research purposes for up to two months.

Laurent Nuñez, France’s national intelligence and counterterrorism coordinator, told France Inter that the technique would apply to communications with people living in sensitive areas, such as Syria, where strongholds of jihadist terrorists remain.

“An algorithm tomorrow will not be able to detect the content of this communication,” Mr. Nuñez said, by way of example. But it would be able “to detect that an individual in France has come into contact with an individual in northwestern Syria.”

Intelligence services could then ask for permission to further investigate the case.

Mr. Darmanin, responding to concerns that civil liberties will be gravely infringed, said that several layers of authorization would be required before tapping the conversations of people detected as suspect by the algorithms.

Concern about infractions of civil liberties in the fight against terrorism have been growing for some time. Arthur Messaud, a lawyer for an association that defends personal online rights and freedom, told France Inter the scope of the new measures was unclear. For example, would all instant messaging be monitored?

The draft bill would also allow the government to monitor terrorists who have completed their prison terms by requiring them to live in certain areas, limiting their movements and barring them from going anywhere — like a sports stadium — that presents “a particular terrorism risk.”

Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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Terrorism Fears Feed the Rise of France’s Extreme Right

Jean-François Ricard, France’s top antiterrorism prosecutor, said that “the words uttered by the assailant” at the time of the stabbing indicated it was a terrorist attack. He did not specifically confirm reports that the attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great, in Arabic.

Agence France-Presse, the news agency, reported that the social media posts of the assailant, identified only as Jamel, were often dedicated to denunciations of Islamophobia in France and attacks on prominent right-wing commentators, including Eric Zemmour, the author of the best-selling book “The French Suicide.”

More recently, those posts were dominated by verses from the Quran. Days after the beheading six months ago of a teacher, Samuel Paty, who had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to a class on free speech, the assailant had joined a campaign titled “Respect Mohammed, Prophet of God,” the agency reported.

It was not clear, as a wide-ranging police investigation began, whether the man, who was living in Rambouillet, had acted alone. Several recent terrorist incidents have involved self-radicalized individuals who have proved hard for the French authorities to trace.

President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the killing with vows to fight on unbowed against “Islamist terrorism.” Before the killing, he had promised in an interview with Le Figaro to recruit an additional 10,000 police officers and gendarmes, a reflection of his determination to uphold “the right to a peaceful life.” This phrase was quickly mocked after the stabbing.

“A peaceful life, Emmanuel Macron?” Guillaume Peltier of the center-right Republicans wrote on Twitter, accusing the president of “an inexcusable renunciation of courage and action.” As for Ms. Le Pen, she was blunt: “France cannot stand this any longer.”

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Macron Closes ENA, in Bid to Diversify France’s Public Service

Mr. Macron embarked on a national debate to fathom the causes of the revolt, and on April 25, 2019, announced for the first time that his alma mater would be eliminated. It was a powerful symbolic gesture, but it met opposition and two years went by without any follow-up. ENA, it seemed, would survive after all.

Earlier this year, during a visit to Nantes, the president announced a program called “Talents” designed to ensure that, when it comes to elite schools for senior public service positions, “no kid from our republic ever says that this is not for me.”

Among the measures announced then was the designation of several spots a year at ENA for students from underprivileged backgrounds, particularly the dismal projects on the outskirts of big cities where many Muslim immigrants are concentrated. Thursday’s statement made clear this program would continue at the new institute.

Mr. Macron has made the modernization of the French state a priority, pushing to eliminate excessive bureaucracy and create a more efficient, performance-based public service. It is a work in progress.

The president has been criticized for focusing his energy on attracting voters to the right of the political spectrum in a bid to head off a challenge from the rightist leader Marine Le Pen. In that context, honoring a decision initially taken in response to the Yellow Vest movement and intended to promote social mobility and greater diversity in senior state posts appeared important.

“Among the vital problems in France, there is one that you are aware of every day: It’s the complete fracture between the base of society — people who work, who are retired, who are unemployed, young people, students — and the supposed elite,” Francois Bayrou, a political ally of Macron, told France Inter radio.

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Can France’s Far Right Win Over the ‘Beavers’? One Mayor Shows How

Mas Llaro had always voted for the mainstream right.

But disillusioned and weary of the status quo, the Talaus, like many others, voted for the first time for the far right last year, drawn by Mr. Aliot’s emphasis on cleanliness and crime, saying their home had been broken into twice.

Though satisfied with the mayor’s performance, Mr. Talau said he would still join the dam against the far right in next year’s presidential contest and hold his nose to vote for Mr. Macron. But Ms. Talau was now considering casting a ballot for Ms. Le Pen.

“She’s put water in her wine,” Ms. Talau said, adding that Mr. Macron was not “tough enough.”

Mr. Aliot’s opponent in 2014 and 2020, a center-right politician named Jean-Marc Pujol, had pressed further to the right in an unsuccessful move to fend off the far right. He increased the number of police officers, giving Perpignan the highest number per capita of any large city in France, according to government data.

Even so, many of his core supporters appeared to trust the far right more on crime and still defected, while many left-leaning beavers complained that they had been ignored and refused to take part in dam-building again, said Agnès Langevine, who represented the Greens and the Socialists in the 2020 mayoral election.

“And they told us, ‘In 2022, if it’s between Macron and Le Pen, I won’t do it again,’ ” she added.

Mr. Lebourg, the political scientist, said that Mr. Aliot had also won over conservative, upper-income voters by adopting a mainstream economic message — the same strategy adopted by Ms. Le Pen.

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