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French far-right leader Marine Le Pen would make second round of presidential vote, poll finds

Fred Pennant, AFP | Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front party, delivers a speech in the southern town of Fréjus on September 18, 2016

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party, is almost certain to advance to the second round of the country’s 2017 presidential election, according to a new poll published on Thursday.

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The study – conducted by research centre Elabe for France’s Radio Classique and the newspaper Les Echos – found that Le Pen is almost certain to qualify for the second round with between 25 and 28 percent of the vote.

The only scenario in which Le Pen would not advance is if she were to run against Les Républicains (formerly the UMP) candidate and Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, who is currently campaigning to win the country’s centre-right primary.

Le Pen, who took over the FN’s leadership in 2011 from its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, has worked hard over the past five years to detoxify its reputation as a fundamentally racist and anti-Semitic party.

Under her direction, the FN has made a foray into the mainstream, winning a majority of seats in European Parliament in 2014, and leading in the first-round of last year’s regional elections.

Grim outlook for Hollande

President François Hollande, who has hinted strongly at a run for re-election, would likely be eliminated in the first round, according to the poll, which found he would win only 12 to 16 percent of the vote.

The study projected he would definitely lose to his former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who has yet to declare his candidacy.

Although Macron would also defeat former industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, who announced his bid in August, and hypothetical candidate Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the poll found he would not gain enough support to make it to the second round.

The first round of France’s presidential election is scheduled to be held on April 23, 2017, and the second on May 7, 2017.

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