Marine Le Pen has overtaken centre-right candidate François Fillon to be the frontrunner in France’s presidential election, according to the latest poll by Ifop-Fiducial.
Le Pen is leading the race for the first time in the campaign as the Republicans candidate Fillon struggles with working class voters who supported Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.
The Front National icon is currently attracting between 26 per cent and 26.5 per cent of the vote while Fillon, who became the candidate of the right and centre having battled through a primary, oscillates between 24 per cent and 25 per cent, reports Paris Match.
Support for the Republicans’s candidate is eroding among voters who opted for Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012, and also people in France who are less well off, and sceptical of his free marketeer reform ambitions. In vital categories, Fillon faces setbacks in support with minus 12 points among workers (8 per cent) and minus 11 among the wider middle and lower middle class (11 per cent).
However, even if Le Pen wins the first round in April, polls published Tuesday show she could be defeated by 64 per cent to 36 per cent in the subsequent election runoff. According to the survey, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, a former economy minister in France, would win 17 to 20 per cent of the vote in the first round.
The poll results showed none of the four main contenders for the candidacy for the ruling Socialist party even reaching the second round in the scenarios put forward, but former Prime Minister Manuel Valls is currently favourite to fill the slot.
Le Pen is a noted Eurosceptic and has promised to hold a referendum regarding France’s membership of the European Union (EU) following populist victories at the ballot box for Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016.
Noting that Fillon “succeeded in his primary by identifying himself as a man of Catholic beliefs and values and an opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion”, veteran conservative columnist Pat Buchanan has said the front-runners this year in France’s presidential election indicate that people in Europe are tired of the western model of “liberal democracy”.