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Marine Le Pen MAINTAINS lead ahead of rivals in French election, new poll finds!

Le Pen remains on course to win the first round of the French election

The Front National leader is three points in front of her closest rival Emmanuel Macron and eight points in ahead of former frontrunner Francois Fillon, according to a Opinionway-Orpi poll.

The first round frontrunner has also cut the deficit of Emmanuel Macron’s second round lead.

On poll by Opinionway on Friday gave Macron a 62 to 38 poll lead ahead of Le Pen in a run-off of the second round of voting – yet the far-right firebrand had cut the deficit to 60-40 by Monday.

An imagined run-off between Le Pen and Fillon in the second round of voting found that the Front National leader trails the Republicans candidate by just eight per cent compared to 24 per cent at the same time in February.

Marine Le Pen’s presidential tilt has faced strong opposition from establishment bigwigs, with outgoing French leader Francois Hollande preaching it was his “ultimate duty” to stop the 48-year-old from being elected.

Hollande, who boasted an approval rating of just four per cent in October last year, said: “My ultimate duty is to make sure that France is not won over by such a programme, and that France does not bear such a heavy responsibility.”

Fellow Frenchman and European Commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, has previously admitted a Le Pen victory would spell the end for the EU.

Moscovici said: “I cannot imagine 50 percent of the French are crazy enough to vote for her.”

Fillon’s candidacy has been hit by claims he paid his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for jobs they may not have carried out – something the conservative candidate strongly denies.

The Opinionway poll found just 13 per cent of French voters believe Fillon will clinch the presidency – six per cent less than Le Pen.

Fillon had faced pressure from within his own party to step down as the Republicans candidate – although with former prime minister Alain Juppe stating he will not replace the 63-year-old as the party’s candidate, Fillon has now received the unanimous backing of his party.