PARIS (Reuters) – French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, whose presidential campaign has gained momentum in recent days, on Monday captured 48.5% of voter intentions in an opinion poll of a likely runoff against Emmanuel Macron, the highest score she has ever notched.
Harris Interactive in a poll for business weekly Challenges said that a victory by Macron – which pollsters considered almost a foregone conclusion in past months – was now within the margin of error.
“This is the first time that the two finalists of (the presidential election in) 2017 are tested so close,” Challenges said on its website, adding that in March, Macron’s lead still ranged between 53-47% and 58-42%.
Monday’s Harris Interactive poll – in line with every other survey over the last month – still shows Macron as the likely winner.
But his lead has shrunk substantially as he entered the campaign late, apparently distracted by the Ukraine crisis. He has focused on rather unpopular economic reforms including raising the retirement age, unsettling his camp.
Less than one week ahead of the first election round, Le Pen’s focus on the declining purchasing power of middle- and lower-income voters has paid off. Her ratings have continued to improve for both the first round and the April 24 runoff.
Earlier on Monday, a poll by OpinionWay and Kéa Partners for Les Echos daily and Radio Classique also forecast a narrowing 53%-47% margin of victory for Macron.
In 2017, Macron won the runoff vote against Le Pen with 66%.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel in Paris; Editing by Matthew Lewis)