Campaigning in the French presidential election ends tonight as far-right candidate Marine Le Pen continued to close the gap on Emmanuel Macron.
President Macron’s popularity is slipping this morning with a shock poll by a Brazilian firm placing Le Pen ahead of the incumbent head of state.
Atlas Politico suggested a 50.5% share of the vote for her in the crucial second round compared to 49.5% for Mr Macron.
Macron visited a market in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris this morning after a radio appearance
There are fears in the Macron camp of Marine Le Pen’s chances (pictured on the campaign trail today)
And a YouGov poll published shortly before midday showed Le Pen gaining 3 points to a 49 percent total against Macron’s 51 percent.
The OpinionWay poll of polls, meanwhile, shows Mr Macron on 26% in the 12-candidate first round, compared to 22% for Ms Le Pen.
Mr Macron would then go on to win the second round, they found, but only with 53% of the vote compared to 47% for Ms Le Pen.
The winner of the first round has no bearing on the outcome of the second round.
Macron could defeat Le Pen on Sunday but if she continues to gain ground over the next two weeks, the En Marche leader could be in big trouble.
Campaigning must cease at midnight tonight, election rules state.
Macron remains wildly popular among supporters of his party (pictured at a rally on April 2)
The failed candidacy of far-right extremist Éric Zemmour has helped Le Pen appear moderate
In 2017, Mr Macron beat Ms Le Pen with a resounding 66% – yet in recent months he has become increasingly unpopular in France.
Macron has been accused of spending too much time trying to resolve the war in Ukraine rather than focusing on the concerns of ordinary French voters.
Mr Macron, who has spoken to Putin more than a dozen times since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, was accused by Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki of ‘negotiating with criminals.’
In an extraordinary EU spat, Mr Macron hit back: ‘Those words are both unfounded and scandalous, but they don’t surprise me.
Macron hopes to be the first French president reelected for 20 years – but has been criticised for devoting too much time to the war in Ukraine. He has spoken to Putin nearly 20 times
‘They are interfering in the presidential campaign. The Polish prime minister belongs to a far-Right party and he supports Marine Le Pen.’
Elysée officials have in the past offered scathing readouts of the calls, saying Putin has appeared ‘paranoid’, lied to the French leader and that Macron told him he made a serious mistake in invading Ukraine on February 24.
…as Le Pen vows to ban headscarves on streets
Despite a push to rebrand herself, Marine Le Pen returned to familiar themes on the election trail last night by pledging to fine Muslims who wear headscarves in public.
She held a campaign rally in the southern stronghold of Perpignan where her National Rally party runs the local council.
Speaking to RTL radio beforehand, Miss Le Pen explained her pledge to ban the headscarf in all public spaces would be enforced by police in the same way as seatbelt-wearing in cars.
Miss Le Pen said she will use referendums to avoid challenges to proposed laws on the basis they are discriminatory and an infringement on personal freedoms.
Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party is still paying off a loan worth some £8million to a Russian bank.
The far-right leader has long been a firm ally of Mr Putin, though she has criticised Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
It comes as Le Pen continues to press for extreme policies including fines for Muslim women who use headscarves to cover their faces in public.
‘People will be given a fine in the same way that they are for illegally not wearing seat belts,’ she suggested.
Ms Le Pen has also pledged to cut immigration by as much as 75 per cent and to clamp down on new arrivals from bringing their families to France.
Le Pen’s efforts to moderate her far-right image were boosted by the candidacy of the even more radical candidate ex-TV pundit Éric Zemmour.
Veteran Left wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was also enjoying a rise in his poll figures.
He is expected to win around 17 per cent in the first round, and could feasibly pip Ms Le Pen to a place in the second round run-off.
That would be a relief for Mr Macron, a former banker and civil servant who formed his own political movement to challenge for power.
He hopes to become the first sitting French president to be re-elected for 20 years.
The last head of state to achieve this was Jacques Chirac, who was elected president in 1997 before gaining a second, final term in 2002.
The first round of this year’s presidential election will take place on Sunday, with the top two candidates going head-to-head two weekends later on April 24.