Le Pen slips behind Macron in French election race: Poll

Indo Asian News Service

Paris, April 21 (IANS) French centrist Emmanuel Macron is set to come out on top in the first round of France's presidential election on Sunday as far-right leader Marine Le Pen fell further behind him in a poll published on Friday.

The nation prepares to vote in the shadow of a terror attack that took place on the capital's famous Champs Elysees Avenue on Thursday night. One police officer and a gunman was killed in the attack claimed by Islamic State (IS) group, reported BBC.

National Front (FN) leader Le Pen pledged to expel radical Islamists and restore border checks after the attack while En Marche! leader Macron stressed that France must not panic, because that would play into the terrorists' hands.

An Elabe survey of voter intentions showed Macron with 24 per cent of the first-round vote and Le Pen falling back slightly to 21.5 per cent.

Two other candidates -- former conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon and the far left's Jean-Luc Melenchon -- were snapping at their heels with 20 and 19.5 per cent respectively.

Fillon, Le Pen and Macron cancelled their planned campaign events after the shooting. Under French election rules, Friday was due to be the final day of campaigning before Sunday's first round of voting.

It was unclear whether the attack would tip the balance of the vote in favour of Le Pen, who has vowed to take a tough line on "Islamic terrorism".

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve accused Le Pen of trying to capitalise on the attack.

"The candidate of the Front National, like every drama, seeks to profit from and to control the situation to divide. She seeks to benefit from fear for exclusively political ends," the Prime Minister said in a televised address.

Fillon said that if elected, his foreign policy priority would be the destruction of ISIS. He also called for the creation of 10,000 more police posts.

Cazeneuve, however, questioned Fillon's position on security, saying that when he previously served as Prime Minister he had cut thousands of security force jobs.

Security in Paris has been stepped up in recent days, but the presence of 50,000 police officers on the streets was not enough to prevent the latest assault, which was being investigated by anti-terror officials.