March 11, 2017 / 3:04 AM / 5 months ago

Macron strengthens core vote, seen beating Le Pen in French election

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attends a meeting in Talence near Bordeaux, south-western France March 9, 2017.Regis Duvignau

PARIS (Reuters) - A new poll of French voter intentions on Saturday showed Emmanuel Macron solidifying his support and still likely to defeat candidate Marine Le Pen in the May presidential run-off.

The BVA poll, published 43 days before the April 23 opening round, showed the independent centrist Macron scoring 26 percent, up 2 percentage points from a week earlier and five points in the last 15 days. He is now level with the far-right Le Pen.

Both remain well ahead of conservative Francois Fillon, who is up 1 point to 20 percent, and appears to have stabilised after his support fell amid a scandal-tainted campaign.

That would send the two leaders into a May 7 playoff at the expense of all other round-one contenders, including Fillon, who was initially the consistent frontrunner as candidate of The Republicans.

As in all other polls to date, the poll showed Le Pen losing the run-off, in this case with 39 percent of the vote versus 61 percent for Macron.

The survey of 1,419 people also saw Macron, an ex-banker who is campaigning on a promise of a break from traditional left-right politics, also strengthening his core vote.

Among his supporters, some 56 percent are now certain to vote for him, up from 49 percent a week earlier. That is still well below Le Pen, whose backers are 83 percent sure of voting for her.

Reporting by John Irish, editing by Larry King

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