Robert Harneis-TDO-The latest Kantar, Sofres, Onepoint opinion poll for the first round, shows National Front Marine Le Pen, 27 %, still leading with centrist Macron, 25 %, closing the gap. François Fillon, once favorite to win in May, is shown lagging in third place with 20 %. The official Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon is in fourth place with 14 % followed by far left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 10 %.

Macron seems to have been assisted by the withdrawal in his favor of the other centrist candidate François Bayrou. It seems not all of his voters have gone over to Macron but enough to make a difference. Fillon remains held back by accusations of misuse of parliamentary allowances in favor of his wife and children as well as unease about his austerity policies. By contrast Le Pen, who is a European member of parliament, has also been accused of misusing her allowances, this time to subsidise her party. However, she seems unaffected, particularly as the accusations smell strongly of political manipulation to discredit her. Unlike Fillon there is no doubt that the money was spent to pay for parliamentary assistance. The only question is whether the assistants actually did work connected with the European parliament. It may be that although she has lost no voters, the bad publicity has caused others to hesitate to support her. If, as many suspect, she is the victim of politically inspired judicial shenanigans it will be precisely with a view to damaging her image and stopping her attracting the voters she needs to break through the 'glass ceiling', the credibility barrier, and achieve the crucial 51 %.

An essential difference between the two leading candidates is that the percentage of voters who say they are sure which way they will vote is a high 78 % for Marine Le Pen, whereas it is only 52 % for Macron, although this figure is rising.

This is just an opinion poll and the elections are still two long months away. However the present trend makes sense in that it is suggesting a face off between the only candidate clearly in favor of a break with the EU, Le Pen, against the candidate most clearly in favor of a European state and globalized free trade. In addition Le Pen is the most strongly anti-immigration candidate and Macron is the most immigrant friendly. This is in contrast with the usual Left Right second round. Note that the French electorate are split down the middle over the EU and only approved the Treaty of Maastricht that lead to the creation of the Euro, by a 51 % majority. The difference between the Yes and No votes was less than the number of spoilt votes and 30 % did not vote.

The Kantar, Sofres, Onepoint poll shows Macron beating Le Pen in the run off 58% to 42 %. Significantly this is Le Pen's best showing in the polls for the final round so far. A Kantar, Sofres, Onepoint poll on 26/27 January showed Macron winning by 65% to 35%.

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