New French president is likely to drive a hard bargain

Valls, who resigned as prime minister in December 2016 to run in the presidential primaries, said that he would not campaign behind Macron or officially associate himself with the centrist's bid for power.

The first round of the election is on April 23, with Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen predicted to go through to the second round run-off on May 7.

Investigating judges in Paris handed Penelope Fillon preliminary charges on Tuesday.

Investigators recently expanded the probe on suspicions that the couple falsified documents after the investigation opened to prove that Penelope carried out parliamentary work for her husband.

She has told police she never stepped foot in the offices of the Revue des Deux Mondes, according to a report in the Journal du Dimanche weekly.

Polls show Macron and Le Pen progressing to the second-round run-off on May 7, where Macron is now predicted to win by about 20 percentage points.

He told reporters: "I repeated to her my disagreement with austerity policies, the consequences that they have had on people, the fact that they have produced today social desperation that produces votes for the far right".

The leader of the National Front (FN) was grilled by business leaders on how French businesses would measure up to economic giants like China if France were to leave the euro. "I'm not joining his camp", said Valls.

Le Pen has vowed to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union within the first six months of her presidency.

France's former Prime Minister, the socialist Manuel Valls, has said he will vote for Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election.

Using the same model he used to predict Donald Trump's election success, Mr Galam says voters unhappy with both Ms Le Pen and her challenger may find a reason not to vote at all, tipping the election in the FN's favour.

The poll also showed that conservative Francois Fillon's score rose to 18 percent from 17 percent in what was the first increase since he was engulfed by a scandal over payments to family members for work they may not have done.

  • Leroy Wright