France's Macron on course to win presidency: Elabe poll

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, leaves after a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Paris, France, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - French centrist Emmanuel Macron is on course to come out on top of the first round of France’s presidential election next month and go on to win in the May 7 runoff against far right leader Marine Le Pen, an Elabe poll showed on Wednesday.

Macron, a popular independent who served as economy minister under President Francois Hollande, would win 25.5 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round while Le Pen would get 24 percent, according to the poll for BFM TV.

Both of their scores were down 0.5 percentage points from the last time the poll was conducted a week ago, Elabe said.

The poll also showed that conservative Francois Fillon’s score rose to 18 percent from 17 percent in what was the first increase since he was engulfed by a scandal over payments to family members for work they may not have done.

That would still not be enough to get him into the May runoff, which Macron was seen winning with 63 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 37 percent.

The poll, which was conducted on March 28-29, also showed far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon making further gains, with his first round score reaching 15 percent, up from 13.5 percent a week earlier.

His gains came at the expense of Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon whose share of the vote slipped to only 10 percent from 11.5 percent.

Hamon, a hardline Socialist who wants to legalize cannabis and create a basic monthly state income for all, has struggled to win support from center-left Socialists like former prime minister Manuel Valls who said on Wednesday he would vote for Macron.

(This version of the story corrects first name of far left candidate in paragraph 6)

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Richard Balmforth