PARIS, France - With just three days left to go before the French head to the polls to elect their new president, experts and election watchers claim that the race is too close to call.
OnWednesday, the prominent Cevipof opinion poll revealed that frontrunners Centrist Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen are both losing some momentum ahead of Sunday's first round.
Further, it showed, in stark contrast to what is widely believed, conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon are both still in contention for the second round run-off.
The poll involving 11,601 people showed first round support for Le Pen falling 2.5 percentage points since early April to 22.5 percent.
Backing for Macron too was down 2 points to 23 percent.
Meanwhile, support for firebrand left-winger Melenchon was seen to have risen in recent weeks.
It stood at 19 percent, while Fillon’s campaign that has been embroiled in the damaging financial scandal, received 19.5 percent of support.
The poll however showed that Macron would win a head-to-head contest against Le Pen.
Meanwhile, a daily survey by Opinionway showcased similar projections for the top candidates.
The survey even projected Macron beating Le Pen in the May 7 second round by 65 percent to 35.
The Cevipof's survey found that abstention is adding to the uncertainty over the outcome of the first round.
Abstention, as seen by the poll, could near a record level at 28 percent, with similar figures helping Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, make it to the runoff in 2002.
Parallely, another poll by BVA, showed Macron taking 24 percent of the vote in the first round, one point more than Le Pen.
Fillon and Melenchon were seen to be tied on 19 percent.
The BVA poll showed abstentions at between 20 and 24 percent.
The going gets tough…
The four-way race will witness its first round on Sunday, when millions of French voters head to the polls - but according to reports, hundreds of thousands of people are still undecided or are planning to abstain.
The election has been declared one of the most unpredictable in France in decades.
On Wednesday, Le Pen’s camp ramped up its eurosceptic rhetoric in a row with Brussels even as Macron managed to retain his status as favorite to win.
Macron would become the youngest French leader since Napoleon if elected president.
Meanwhile, like Le Pen, even Melenchon has championed himself as a defender of French workers, playing on a sentiment that is widely dubbed as the reason U.S. President Donald Trump clinched an expected win in November last year.
Both Le Pen and Melenchon have said that they could take France out of the European Union and the euro currency.
With unpredictability gripping the markets soon after the paradigm shifting votes seen in the case of Brexit and the U.S. Presidential Elections - banks are said to have requisitioned their staff to be at their desks through the night on Sunday to enable them to respond fast to the outcome.
Investors meanwhile spend nervous days worrying about potential last-minute surprises that could trigger market turmoil.
Earlier this week, Le Pen decided to go with issues that have proved to be sure shot winners for her.
She vowed to suspend all immigration with an immediate moratorium, strengthen the country’s security and shield voters from globalisation.
Although her party’s trademark tough security and immigration stance has moved her forward in the race, she has been put on the defensive over her position on leaving the euro zone. The proposal lacks wide support in the country so far.
Even as she prepared for the mid-week rally of her campaign in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, her camp was engaged in an angry Twitter exchange with the European Commission.
In response to Le Pen's refusal to appear on France's TF1 television channel on Tuesday unless the EU's flag was removed, the Commission lashed out in a tweet saying, "Proud of our flag, a symbol of unity, solidarity and harmony between the people of Europe. Let's not hide it."
Florian Philippot, Le Pen's deputy immediately responded, “You'll see, we'll soon be sticking your oligarchic rag in the cupboard."