Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has taken the lead for the first time in polling before the French presidential election, beating the far right’s Marine Le Pen in the initial round.
The Harris Interactive poll showed Macron taking 26% of the vote on 23 April – a six-point gain in two weeks – compared with 25% for National Front leader Le Pen, who had long been leading in the first round.
In the likely event that no one wins an outright majority, a run-off between the two top candidates will be held on 7 May. The Harris poll shows Macron would take 65% of that vote to Le Pen’s 35%.
Macron’s lead in Thursday’s poll comes as a growing list of backers from both the left and the centre throw their support behind the 39-year-old former economy minister who is trying to upend France’s traditional politics.
Though no polls currently show Le Pen winning, anti-immigration nationalist is hoping to emulate the shock success of Donald Trump in US presidential elections last year.
In a boost to his campaign on Wednesday, Macron won the backing of Socialist former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë who called him “a reformist, a European and a realist”.
Delanoë, who oversaw the French capital from 2001 to 2014, told France Inter radio he backed Macron because it was essential to “throw the most weight possible behind the candidate who can beat Madame Le Pen in the first round”.
His stance on the prospect of a Le Pen presidency was echoed by France’s ambassador to Japan, who on Wednesday broke diplomatic protocol by stating publicly that he would refuse to serve if she won. “If the French tragedy comes to pass and leads to her election, I would withdraw from all my diplomatic functions,” Thierry Dana, 60, wrote in a column in Le Monde newspaper.