PARIS: Centrist Emmanuel Macron saw his position as favourite to win France’s presidential election boosted on Thursday in two polls, with one showing him ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of the two-stage contest.
A monthly Cevipof survey, seen as the most authoritative because it has a far bigger sample size than most polls, put Le Pen well ahead in the April 23 first round though Macron was seen easily beating her in a May 7 runoff.
However, a Harris Interactive poll showed Macron winning the first round with 26 per cent of votes, with Le Pen taking second place on 25 per cent, setting him up to trounce her in the run-off with a score of 65 per cent.
It was the second poll in the space of a week that put the 39-year-old ahead of Le Pen in the opening round, a signal that the centrist former economy minister may be consolidating his position 45 days from the first stage of the contest.
The polls coincided with release of a research note from Credit Suisse bank that said the risk of a win for Le Pen, who wants to restore the French franc currency, was exaggerated.
Macron’s showing in the Harris poll helped ease investor concerns about the prospects of Le Pen winning, with the gap between French and German bond yields narrowing on Thursday.
Financial scandals have engulfed Le Pen and conservative Francois Fillon, who after his surprise victory in the primary of The Republicans party was the clear poll favourite to become president as recently as January.
The Cevipof poll for Le Monde showed Le Pen with 27 per cent of votes in the first round, up one percentage point from last month, with Macron stable at 23 per cent and Fillon gaining one point to 19.5 per cent.
Fillon was initially on 17.5 per cent when the poll was initially conducted on March 1-5, but his score improved as pollsters surveyed an additional thousand people after he held a major rally in Paris and his party decided to keep backing him.
Fillon’s team announced senior appointments on Thursday to try to shore up his campaign, including former finance minister Francois Baroin in the special role of unifying the increasingly fragmented Republicans party. — Reuters