POLLING ahead of the French presidential election indicates that the contest may be too close to call, with the far-right Marine Le Pen gaining ground on incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron.

Earlier this week, an Ipsos Sopra Steria Cevipof poll for Le Monde newspaper suggested that Macron would lead in the first round of voting on April 10 with 26.4% of the vote versus 21.5% for Le Pen, followed by a victory for Macron in the second round on April 24 by 54% to 46%.

However, with only two days remaining until the first round, the New Statesman magazine has reported that new YouGov/Datapraxis polling shows the gap closing, with Macron on 26% in the first round and Le Pen on 23%.

Datapraxis founder Paul Hilder commented: “All our data suggests the second round is now too close to call.

“Le Pen’s reserves – people on the fence for the second round, but who think Macron would be worse – are more positive about her and could mobilise more easily, while Macron’s supposed reserves – many left voters amongst them – mostly hate him too. He is close to his ceiling, but she has room to grow. Whatever happens, this will be the best result ever for the French far-right.”

Polling also indicates that the election’s other two most prominent candidates – the left-wing Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has pledged to reintroduce a wealth tax ended by Macron’s government and to lower the retirement age to 60, and the far-right commentator Éric Zemmour, who has run on an anti-migrant, anti-Islamic platform – would not qualify for the second round of voting, provoking speculation over who their supporters may vote for in a runoff.

A contrary outcome was forecast by what appeared to be an outlier poll by the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, which not only showed Macron failing to make it past the first round, but predicted that Zemmour would defeat Mélenchon in the second. However, following the poll’s wide circulation, Le Temps this week issued a statement on social media denying that the newspaper had ordered any polling on the French presidential election and raising doubts about the poll’s veracity.

French markets have responded nervously to the prospect of a close race, with bonds sliding sharply on April 6, followed by the CAC 40 stock index underperforming the rest of Europe by almost 1.3%.