Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron is the candidate most likely to win France’s closely contested presidential election this year, according to predictions in an opinion poll published as his conservative rival Francois Fillon battles a scandal.
The poll by Elabe for Les Echos newspaper conducted on Jan 30 and 31 showed an increase in voting intentions for both Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, with Fillon, the candidate for The Republicans who was favourite until last week, not making the second round.
Elabe had two voting scenarios that varied according to which other candidates stand.
First round voting intentions for Macron were unchanged or up 1 point to 22-23 per cent depending on the scenario. Le Pen’s first round score was up by 3 points to 26-27 per cent.
Fillon’s score fell by between 5 and 6 points to 19-20 per cent. The poll was conducted days after a newspaper report saying his wife was paid taxpayers money for fake work threw his campaign off course.
Those scores would eliminate Fillon from the second round, a contest between the two top scorers in round one.
Elabe predicted Macron would beat Le Pen in that second round on May 7 with 65 per cent of the vote. Should Fillon make the second round, he also would beat Le Pen, but by a lower margin, at 59 per cent, Elabe said.
The poll, published on Wednesday, is the second one to be conducted since the scandal engulfed Fillon’s campaign last week and an official inquiry was opened.
It confirms an impact on the vote for Fillon that was noted by a survey published on Sunday.
On Tuesday, French police searched Fillon’s office in parliament and party leaders began to consider a ‘Plan B’ without him.