French presidential race tightens further as vote looms in 9 days

The five candidates for the presidential election: (from left) Francois Fillon, Benoit Hamon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Melenchon.
The five candidates for the presidential election: (from left) Francois Fillon, Benoit Hamon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Melenchon. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - France's presidential election race looked tighter than it has all year on Friday (April 14) with just nine days to go until voting begins as a new opinion poll put the four leading candidates just three percentage points apart.

The two highest scorers in the first round on April 23 will go through to contest a run-off on May 7.

According to a poll by Ipsos-Sopra Steria, centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen were tied on 22 per cent each, with the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative Francois Fillon on 20 and 19 per cent respectively.

That made the most likely second-round scenario one that pits Le Pen against Macron - a scenario that is consistent with most other surveys. The poll showed Macron winning that face-off with 63 per cent of votes.

Other polls have also been showing the race tightening during April, with the two leaders losing ground and the chasing pair, especially Melenchon, picking up support.