Macron, Le Pen cling on to first round lead in French election race
Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen held onto their lead as the frontrunners to narrowly beat other candidates in the first round of the presidential election, a Cevipof poll for Le Monde newspaper showed on Wednesday.
The two would make it to a run-off on May 7, with Macron seen as the likeliest eventual winner in the second round, but both candidates appeared to be losing steam in the last few days of a tightly-fought campaign ahead of the first April 23 ballot, according to the poll, based on a survey of 11,601 people.
Le Pen dropped by 2.5 percentage points to 22.5 percent of voting intentions since early April, and Macron fell 2 percentage points to 23 percent in the first round.
Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has surged to the fore in recent weeks, was clipping at their heels at 19 percent, the poll showed, while conservative leader Francois Fillon stood at 19.5 percent.
Le Pen would lose in the second round of voting against all three rival candidates.
Abstention, a key factor adding to uncertainty over the outcome of the first round, was seen coming in at 28 percent, Cevipof said.
That was in line with the record abstention level in the 2002 election, when far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the run-off before he was beaten by conservative Jacques Chirac.