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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chirac Leads Balladur in Latest French Polls

PARIS -- An opinion poll released Thursday showed Paris mayor Jacques Chirac for the first time beating his Gaullist rival, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, in France's April-May presidential election.

The Louis Harris survey was the worst showing for Balladur in a series of polls that have recorded surges by both Chirac and Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin as the premier battled student unrest, a wiretap scandal and a Franco-American spy row.

The poll, conducted for the daily InfoMatin and made available before publication Friday, suggested Balladur might fail to qualify for the second round runoff vote May 7.

It gave him only 21 percent of the first round vote on April 23, against 22 percent for both Chirac and Jospin.

The poll was the first to put Chirac in the lead, and suggested he would defeat Jospin 56 percent to 44 percent on May 7. Even if the premier did reach the runoff, he would lose to Chirac by a narrow 51 to 49 percent, the poll showed.

Chirac has focused his campaign on Balladur, firing salvos at the premier and preaching a centrist platform in an attempt to steal moderate voters. The right-wing struggle intensified as former president Val?ry Giscard d'Estaing hinted that he or his former premier, Raymond Barre, might join the race.