March 11, 2017 / 3:12 AM / a year ago

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

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.

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. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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 stabilized 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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