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France’s centrist presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron has take a slim lead in the country’s first round voting intentions, leapfrogging rivals Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon for the first time in the tightly run race.

A poll conducted by Elabe on Monday puts the independent Mr Macron, a former socialist economy minister, at 25.5 per cent in the initial April vote ahead of a key presidential television debate tonight. Far-right candidate Ms Le Pen, who had been leading the first round vote for the last two months, slipped 1 point to 25 per cent. Mr Fillon was in third place, down 1.5 points, at 17.5 per cent.

Despite Ms Le Pen’s erstwhile lead, she has been forecast to comfortably fall short in the final round vote in May, suffering a similar fate as her father Jean-Marie who was heavily defeated by Jacques Chirac in 2002. Monday’s Elabe poll estimates the National Front leader would win just 37 per cent of votes against Mr Macron’s 63 per cent.

Her slip in the polls comes less than a week after Dutch voters rejected populist Geert Wilders – who also ran on an anti-euro, anti-Islam ticket. Mr Wilders PVV party gained just five seats from 2012 and fell short of its record parliamentary outing in 2010.

Betting odds however predict a far tighter French race, with Betfair’s exchange placing a 61 per cent chance of a round one victory for Ms Le Pen – who has vowed to hold a referendum on France’s eurozone membership.

Image via Elabe

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