Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are holding on to their lead as the frontrunners to narrowly beat other candidates in the first round of France's presidential election, a Cevipof poll for Le Monde newspaper showed yesterday.

The two would make it to a runoff on May 7, with Macron seen as the likeliest eventual winner in the second round, but both candidates appeared to be losing steam in the last few days of a tightly fought campaign ahead of the first April 23 ballot, according to the poll, based on a survey of 11,601 people.

Le Pen dropped by 2.5 percentage points to 22.5 per cent of voting intentions since early April, and Macron fell 2 percentage points to 23 per cent in the first round.

Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has surged to the fore in recent weeks, was on their heels at 19 per cent, the poll showed, while conservative leader Francois Fillon stood at 19.5 per cent.

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Le Pen would lose in the second round of voting against all three rival candidates.