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Macron remains favourite in Presidential race - but only just

Macron remains favourite in Presidential race - but only just”

Centrist Emmanuel Macron would be slightly ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of France's presidential election and then go on to beat her comfortably in the second-round run-off, an Odoxa poll showed on Sunday.

French voters go the polls on April 23 and May 7 in the two-round election, which is being closely followed outside France as another test of popular discontent with traditional parties and institutions like the European Union.

The Kantar Sofres-Onepoint poll of 1,508 voters showed the pair neck-and-neck at 26% each, with conservative Francois Fillon coming in third with 17%.

All 11 contenders, spanning the spectrum from Trotskyist left to the far right, will take part in another debate on April 4.

Socialist Benoit Hamon has fallen back into joint fourth place alongside radical far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, with both men polling 12%.

The expiry of the deadline would put paid to any further attempts by members of the conservative Republicans party to seek an alternative candidate to Fillon, who is being investigated on suspicion of misusing public funds to pay his wife and children and over a gift of expensive suits.

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The latest daily Opinionway poll on Monday showed Le Pen scoring 27 percent in the first round, in front of Macron on 23 and Fillon on 18.

"You're unemployed? Start your own company!"

The election could hinge on turnout, after several political veterans have already been sent packing by voters fed up with politics as usual.

Of those, more than two in five say they are not yet wedded to any candidate.

"The 2017 campaign is hard to get a handle on", Pascal Perrineau, a political science professor at Sciences Po university, wrote in Le Monde at the weekend, blaming the steady drip of "scandals, real or imagined" for preventing real debate. Le Pen has more controversially raised plans to create greater ties between France and Russian Federation.

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