Firebrand French nationalist Marine Le Pen is just two points short of commanding a majority of support in the final round of voting for the French presidency according to a new poll that promises to shake the European establishment.
When she last reached the second round, back in 2017, she secured just a third of the vote while pro-European Emmanuel Macron romped home with 66%, but new polling puts the two political rivals much closer ahead of a 2022 showdown.
She significantly outperformed her father Jean-Marie, who got less than 18% of the vote when he made the second round in a 2002 vote that shocked the world, and the new figures reveal that the political momentum continues to shift to the French hard right.
The new Harris run-off poll, which was carried out last week, shows Le Pen on a whopping 48% while Macron lands at 52%.
Previous figures from the pollster, forecasting how numbers would shake out in the much broader and more chaotic first round, showed Le Pen leading the pack with 26% of the vote while Macron commanded the preferences of just 23% of voters.
If that plays out, Macron and Le Pen would meet once again in a second round showdown that promises to be much closer than their 2017 encounter.
Macron’s presidency has been beset by huge issues, including the rise of an anti-establishment Yellow Vests movement and the EU’s bungling mismanagement of the bloc’s vaccine rollout.
In recent months Macron has tried to win support back from the hard right with a tough approach to Islamist extremism, in the wake of the senseless murder of school teacher Samuel Paty.
But the French leader is clearly not secure in his position, with a new stance on electoral reform pointing to serious concerns about the rise of Le Pen’s National Rally.
In a sign that Macron is already spooked by the looming threat of the nationalist group, it emerged last week that the President has dropped his 2017 vow to shake up France’s electoral system precisely because of her growing popularity.
Top En Marche! politician Christophe Castaner went so far as to admit the plans had been scrapped because “I am not in favour of bringing 100 RN MPs into Parliament.”