Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron would beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of France’s presidential election and go on to win a runoff vote, according to a new poll.
The 39-year-old former economy minister would win 26% of the vote in the first round of voting on 23 April, with Ms Le Pen getting 25%, the Harris Interactive poll showed on Thursday.
That represents a rise of six percentage points since the last poll was conducted two weeks ago, after Mr Macron unveiled his campaign manifesto and has seen veteran politicians give him their support.
In the poll, former front runner Francois Fillon trails in third with 20%, with Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon in fourth with 13%.
In the likely event that no one wins an outright majority in the first round of voting, a runoff between the top two candidates would be held on 7 May.
The Harris poll shows that Mr Macron would win 65% of that vote, with Ms Le Pen getting 35%.
On Wednesday, Mr Macron won the support of Socialist former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who called him a “reformist, a European and a realist”.
Mr Delanoe, who was in charge in the French capital from 2001 to 2014, told France Inter radio it was essential to back Mr Macron to “throw the most weight possible behind the candidate who can beat Madame Le Pen in the first round”.
But Mr Macron has also faced criticism from political heavyweights, including veteran conservative former prime minister Alain Juppe who described him as “politically naive”.
France’s ambassador to Japan, Thierry Dana, broke diplomatic protocol on Wedensday by publicly stating he would refuse to serve if Ms Le Pen won the election.