Emmanuel Macron's lead narrows in French presidential race: Polls

There was relief for markets after Centrist Emmanuel Macron kept his position as favourite to win France's presidential election, following a televised debate in which he clashed with his main rival, Marine Le Pen, over Europe.
Leader of the French far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen and En Marche! centrist movement leader Emmanuel Macron.
Leader of the French far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen and En Marche! centrist movement leader Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - Centrist Emmanuel Macron's lead in France's presidential election has narrowed though he is still on course to win, according to two polls casting light on voter intentions following a televised debate between candidates.

Macron would win 25 per cent of the April 23 first round vote while far-right leader Marine Le Pen was seen getting 24 per cent, according to a Harris Interactive poll for France Televisions published on Thursday (April 6).

Both of their scores were down a percentage point from the last time the poll was conducted on March 23, though they would still comfortably make it into the May 7 runoff.

Macron was seen winning the presidency 62 per cent to Le Pen's 38 per cent, a margin that was down from 65 per cent to 35 per cent two weeks ago.

The poll was partly taken after Tuesday's four-hour debate, the second during the campaign, but the first to include all 11 candidates. It also saw Le Pen putting on the defensive from all sides.

With a second solid performance thanks to his sharp wit, hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon marked further poll gains, nearly catching up with erstwhile favourite Francois Fillon, a conservative former prime minister.

Melenchon's score climbed to 17 per cent in the first round from 13.5 per cent two weeks ago while Fillon, whose campaign has struggled as he faced nepotism allegations, saw his score hold steady at 18 per cent.

The results in the Harris poll closely mirrored those in an Elabe poll for BFM TV published late on Wednesday and conducted in full after the debate.

That showed Macron's first round vote at 23.5 per cent, his lowest score in a month and down from 25.5 per cent the last time the poll was conducted on March 28-29.

Le Pen was also seen at 23.5 per cent, down from 24 per cent.