Emmanuel Macron remains favorite to win France’s turbulent presidential election race, a poll showed on Sunday, on the eve of a first televised debate which could allow embattled conservative Francois Fillon to get back in contention.

 

Macron

 

Macron, a former economy minister running as an independent centrist, would lead first-round voting with 26.5 percent, just ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 26 percent, before beating her 64-36 in the run-off, according to the Odoxa poll.

 

Fillon scored 19 percent of first-round voting intentions in the poll, confirming the task faced by the one-time frontrunner to revive a campaign sapped by a fraud investigation.

 

A separate poll by Kantar Sofres-Onepoint showed a similar trend for the first round, with Macron and Le Pen tied on 26 percent, ahead of Fillon on 17 percent.

 

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 official campaign period got under way on Saturday when France’s Constitutional Council announced a list of 11 contenders who had met conditions to stand.

 

 

 

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