Marine Le Pen 'leads race for French presidency'

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen

New poll suggests Front National leader Marine Le Pen would knock out socialists in first round

LAST UPDATED AT 13:57 ON Fri 1 Aug 2014

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, is in poll position to win the French presidency from Francois Hollande, according to a new poll.

The Ifop survey found that Le Pen would win 26 per cent of votes if France's next presidential election were called today, placing her ahead of mainstream rivals incluing Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, his predecessor, and Manuel Valls, the prime minister.

Sarkozy was in second place with 25 per cent, while Hollande was on 17 per cent, level with Valls – whose popularity has been on the rise since becoming prime minister in March, Reuters reports.

Under the French electoral system, only the two leading candidates would progress to the second round of voting, so the two socialist candidates would have been knocked out.

The Ifop poll did not examine whether Sarkozy or Le Pen would prevail in the run-off, but the Financial Times says Le Pen would probably be defeated "as mainstream voters rallied against her".

That's what happened in 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine's father, beat socialist candidate Lionel Jospin in the first round, but was soundly beaten by Jacques Chirac when socialist voters backed him against the far right candidate.

President Hollande continues to struggle with "rock-bottom popularity", says Reuters. High unemployment and a weak economy have prompted speculation that Valls may soon replace him as party leader, in preparation for the 2017 presidential election.

Sarkozy also lost ground, dropping six points since April, after new allegations of corruption emerged last month. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.