#France: Polls give Macron a massive lead over Le Pen

#France: Polls give Macron a massive lead over Le Pen

The candidate, who maintains that his wife was properly employed as his assistant, said in February he would maintain his bid for the presidency even if prosecutors open a formal investigation, contradicting an earlier pledge.

On Wednesday, however, he said he would not drop out, insisting that he is the victim of a "political assassination".

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon was the clear frontrunner until January when newspaper Le Canard Enchaine brought his wife's job to light.

The date is just two days before the deadline for candidates to submit their final applications. Once thought to be the favourite to succeed Hollande, the former French Prime Minister is now trailing in third place. It is thought that Fillon's problems have also assisted Marine Le Pen with a 2% rise in the polls.

"The voice of millions of votes have been muzzled", Fillon added.

Last Friday, Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front candidate, refused to respond to a summons in another probe into whether she used European Parliament funds to pay party staff. "I entrusted some parliamentary work to my relatives because I knew I could rely on their support", Francois Fillon told reporters, referring to claims his wife and two of his children were paid for parliamentary work they did not complete. It has also been alleged that Penelope Fillon received 100,000 euros for articles she wrote for a literary journal.

The European Parliament has already accused Le Pen on funds misuse and she has been asked to repay almost Euro 300,000 for hiring two people for her campaign from European funds.

The news comes less than a week after Fillon was placed under judicial investigation.

Rival candidate Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist, said it's important for investigators to do their jobs.

"The market is more comfortable with the case where you have a run-off between Macron and Le Pen and that's helping the spread tighten", Luca Cazzulani, a strategist at UniCredit Group SpA in Milan, said by phone.

Le Pen has maintained a strong lead in first round polling since 2013 and is therefore widely expected to top the preliminary vote on 23 April with around a quarter of the vote.

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