Paris Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has emerged as a kingmaker in France's presidential race, sought to wrest concessions from President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday by challenging him not to bar her party's way in parliamentary elections.

Both conservative Sarkozy and Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande have courted Le Pen's voters since she took third place in Sunday's presidential first round with nearly one fifth of the vote, the National Front's best score.

Sarkozy, who trails his centre-left rival by ten points in polls before a May 6 run-off, has made the most direct overtures to National Front supporters, saying he respected their vote for a party which has long been stigmatised.

May Day rally

Le Pen has promised to give her view on the second round at the National Front's traditional "Joan of Arc" May Day rally, and she urged Sarkozy to make his own position clearer concerning parliamentary polls in June.

Building on her record support, the National Front hopes to win its first seats in parliament since 1986, when an experiment with proportional representation gave it 35 deputies.

"In a run-off between the National Front and a Socialist, would the UMP and the president prefer to have one of my deputies or a Socialist elected?," Le Pen said on RTL radio, referring to Sarkozy's centre-right Union for a Popular Movement party.

Waiting game

"I still don't have an answer to that question. I'm waiting," she said, when asked who she would endorse. "How I express myself will depend on the response."

Hollande, who said he understands voters' exasperation at high unemployment and a widening gap between rich and poor, has blamed Sarkozy for fostering the far right by aping its aggressive stance on immigration and national identity.

Sarkozy took up another Le Pen idea yesterday, calling for a change in the law to allow policemen who open fire on suspects to be presumed to have acted in "legitimate self-defence" unless proven otherwise.

He made the call after hundreds of officers demonstrated in police cars on the central Champs-Elysees avenue after a colleague who shot dead a fugitive in a Paris suburb was placed under judicial investigation for suspected murder.