Leftist Melenchon just behind Fillon as Macron still leads polls ahead of French election

French presidential election frontrunner Emmanuel Macron says he wants to kick the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen out of the campaign by beating her in the top job race.
Politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, of the French far-left Parti de Gauche, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, attends a political rally in Le Mans.
Politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, of the French far-left Parti de Gauche, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, attends a political rally in Le Mans.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Far-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is one percentage point off former frontrunner Francois Fillon in polls ahead of the first-round vote, a poll showed on Friday (March 31), suggesting the conservatives risk being relegated to fourth place on April 23.

The Odoxa survey of more than 1,000 people carried out on March 29 and 30 sees centrist Emmanuel Macron winning 26 per cent of the vote ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 25 per cent, with Fillon on 17 per cent but closely trailed by Melenchon on 16 per cent.

While Macron was predicted to go on to beat Le Pen comfortably in the second-round run-off with 59 per cent of the vote against 41 per cent for Le Pen, the former economy minister has lost 5 percentage points to his rival since the equivalent survey on March 19.

However, the poll is the first to suggest a dynamic in which France's two-party system that has been in place for 30 years alternating between the Conservatives and the Socialist party could be swept aside.

According to the survey, hardline left-wing Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, who has seen his party implode over the last week, is now down to 8 per cent of voting intentions in fifth place.