Macron's lead narrows in French presidential election: polls

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Centrist Emmanuel Macron has seen his lead in France's presidential election narrowed just a day after going head-to-head with far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a televised debate, two voter intention polls have shown. It featured all 11 candidates in the race.

Melenchon appears to be gaining votes from Hamon, who is struggling to stay above a 10 percent rating in the polls, but he is also getting votes from further afield.

The French presidential election may see a record-low turnout this year, political analysts predict - a factor largely seen to favor the National Front's Marine Le Pen, who has the most committed supporters.

Macron then retorted: "Sorry to tell you this, Madame Le Pen, but you are saying the same lies that we've heard from your father for forty years".

"Marine Le Pen's potent mix of old-school left-wing economics and diatribes against immigrants resonates in this part of the country - and has brought the National Front closer than ever before to taking power in France".

Macron is projected to beat Le Pen by about 20 percentage points in the runoff on May 7.

"I want the French people to decide after negotiations, whatever their results", she said, adding that she would respect the result even if voters chose to stay in the EU.

If Macron does indeed find himself facing Le Pen in the second round and emerges victorious, a rally in French government bonds seems likely to us, at least in the short term.

Macron accused her of wanting to start an "economic war" with France's neighbours and denounced her nationalist stance, which he said had torn the continent apart in the past and filled graveyards near his hometown Amiens in northeast France.

The Socialist candidate, former education minister Benoit Hamon, has outlined a plan to introduce a universal income.

She said she is "politically persecuted" and added that in any case, as a member of the European Parliament, she has "parliamentary immunity".

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon, whose campaign has been hit by allegations that he paid his wife, a son and daughter hundreds of thousands of euros of public money for minimal work, would come third in the first-round.

But lesser-known rivals stood out in the debate - notably far left candidates Jean-Luc Melenchon and Philippe Poutou, with their rhetoric for the working classes and jabs at the frontrunners.

The highest-scoring candidate among the six others is Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a Gaullist polling at around four percent.

For Marc Schmitt, a 25-year old cleaner who commutes to Luxembourg from a village next to Hayange, that makes it possible to support Le Pen for president, even though he wants to keep the euro.

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