Macron leads field of 11 candidates in French election

  • Macron leads field of 11 candidates in French election

Macron leads field of 11 candidates in French election

Polls now show Fillon, the one-time favourite, crashing out in the first round behind Le Pen and Macron, following revelations of payments by parliament to his wife and children as well as loans and lavish gifts from wealthy friends.

Voters go to the polls on 23 April.

Elabe poll shows centrist Emmanuel Macron, for the first time since January, leading in the first round of the French presidential election. He was second in first-round voting intentions, a point behind the National Front's Le Pen who had 26%, but would win a run-off against his far-right opponent 62-38, according to the survey.

Macron, 39, a former economy minister and investment banker who has never run for elected office, made a name for himself by criticizing sacred cows of the French "social model" such as the 35-hour working week, iron-clad job protection and civil servants' jobs for life.

Socialist Benoit Hamon has fallen back into joint fourth place alongside radical far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, with both men polling 12%.

Meanwhile 63-year-old Fillon has sent his conservative Republicans party into a tailspin with a raft of scandals that have landed him in the dock for misuse of public funds. "The choices he wants to make for the French are not the right ones".

"You're unemployed? Start your own company!"

Of those, more than two in five say they are not yet wedded to any candidate.

Markets, surprised by Britain's Brexit vote last June, are nervous about the possibility of a victory by National Front leader Le Pen, who pledges to take France out of the euro and hold a referendum on European Union membership.

His predicted runoff with Le Pen will be the most surprising since 2002 when the FN leader's father Jean-Marie Le Pen rocked the political establishment by getting into the second round in 2002 where he eventually lost to conservative Jacques Chirac.