PARIS, March 17 (Reuters) - Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon on Friday categorically ruled out quitting the French presidential election race in favour of Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon.
Picked as the ruling Socialist party's nominee in January, Hamon has struggled to make any poll impact ahead the April/May vote after pushing a hard-left programme that has divided his party and split the left-wing vote with Communist-backed Melenchon.
Arnaud Montebourg, who lost out to Hamon in January and has gone on to back his former rival, called on Thursday for Melenchon to withdraw ahead of the April 23 first round to give more chance for the Socialists to make it to the May 7 runoff.
"Imagine that 40 days before the first round, out of the blue ... I say it is finished, (and) that all that I have been saying over the last five years does not exist anymore," Melenchon told BFM TV.
"That would be absurd, that would encourage thousands of people to abstain from the vote".
An IFOP daily poll of voting intentions on Thursday showed Hamon trailing in fourth place getting 13.5 percent of the vote in the first round, while Melenchon would get 11 percent.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron are at the moment seen comfortably reaching the runoff. (Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; editing by John Irish)