Macron forges ahead as rivals wrestle with legal troubles
Independent French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron opened up his biggest lead yet over Republican François Fillon and began narrowing the gap with Front National leader Marine Le Pen, helped by endorsements and his rivals' legal troubles.
Two polls published on Sunday gave Mr Macron the support of 25pc of the French electorate going into the first round of the presidential election, two points behind Ms Le Pen. Mr Fillon has 20pc support, according to a Kantar Sofres poll and 19pc in an Oxoda Dentsu survey.
Both surveys show Ms Le Pen losing to either man in the second round. Both the Ifop and OpinionWay daily polls yesterday showed Mr Macron as the only one of the top three candidates gaining.
Both Ms Le Pen and Mr Fillon have seen their campaigns hampered by alleged 'fake jobs' scandals.
Mr Macron (39) won his third and fourth endorsements in less than a week as Socialist lawmaker Christophe Caresche said that he will abandon his party's nominee in favour of the independent and former European lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit officially declared he will vote for Mr Macron.
That follows announcements of support last week from former ecology party lawmaker François de Rugy and François Bayrou, a centrist politician who ran for president in the past three elections. "The Bayrou announcement was decisive," Emmanuel Riviere, director of polling at Kantar Public France, said. "He is a personality with significant weight and he has generated momentum for Macron."
The support has helped Mr Macron recover from gaffes related to France's colonial past and gay marriage that set back his campaign.
Mr Macron now has a six-point lead over Mr Fillon according to the Odoxa poll - greater than he has had at any point in the campaign.
"That's a spectacular increase," Odoxa pollster Gael Sliman said on France 2 television. "Is it sustainable? It remains to be seen. Many things can still happen."
Like Mr Bayrou, Mr Caresche said Mr Macron's ability to defeat Ms Le Pen was crucial to his decision. He also mentioned Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon's choices on nuclear power.
Mr Hamon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, a former member of the Socialist Party who is supported by the Communists, both announced over the weekend they are staying in the race, putting the left at risk of disappearing after the first round of balloting.