Sarkozy gains on main rival

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was gaining on his Socialist rival after officially announcing his re-election bid last week, but still faces a tough challenge, a poll indicated.

The OpinionWay poll for newspaper Le Figaro showed Sarkozy with 27% of intended votes in the first round, up 1.5 points from the previous poll and within striking distance of Socialist candidate Francois Hollande with 29%.

Hollande’s support was stable for the first round, but he remained the clear favourite to win a second round run-off, with 56% to Sarkozy’s 44%.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) saw her support fall by 1.5 points to 16.5% of intended votes while centrist Francois Bayrou’s support was stable at 13%.

The two-round vote will be held on April 22 and May 6.

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