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Le Pen moves into lead in French race, Le Monde poll shows

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2017 file photo, Marine Le Pen, far-right leader and candidate for next spring's presidential election, delivers her New Year's address to the media in Paris. Le Pen, a top presidential candidate, sees a "grand return" of nationalism and a new France if she is elected. Le Pen’s vision for France is no European Union, no open borders and closer ties with Russia. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Michel Euler/AP

French far-right leader and candidate for next spring's presidential election Marine Le Pen.

Right-wing leader Marine Le Pen is gaining support in France and has taken the lead in a major survey of voters’ intentions for the first round of the presidential election.

The populist leader of the National Front had between 25 percent and 26 percent support, compared with 23 percent to 25 percent for Republican candidate Francois Fillon, according to an Ipsos Sopra Steria poll for Cevipof and Le Monde. In mid-December, Fillon led with about 28 percent and Le Pen around 25 percent.

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Since the election of Donald Trump as president on Nov. 8, the French race has been closely watched as another crucial battle between populist and establishment forces. Under the French electoral system, the two leading candidates face each other in a run-off vote on May 7, presenting a significant hurdle to Le Pen.

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, a French Socialist, said in Davos on Thursday that there’s little chance of Le Pen securing the broad support needed for victory.

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‘‘I’m not worried about Madame Le Pen being president,’’ Moscovici said in a Bloomberg Television interview. ‘‘I don’t want Madame Le Pen in power. Never, ever in my country.’’

Le Pen has pledged to take France out of the euro if she wins.

Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron is in third position and gaining, the poll showed. His support would exceed 20 percent if Arnaud Montebourg becomes the presidential candidate for the ruling Socialist Party, according to Le Monde. Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon would win between 14 and 15 percent support.

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With 15,921 people interviewed, the Ipsos Sopra Steria poll is roughly 16 times the size of typical French political surveys.

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