Barack Obama endorses Emmanuel Macron in French presidential race

In a message posted on Mr Macron's Twitter account, the former U.S. president said he was endorsing the centrist candidate "because of how important this election is".

Among Melenchon supporters, those under 35 are especially mobilized to vote for Macron, which is a big advantage for the 39-year-old centrist candidate, according to the poll.

There has been intense anxiety in France over the possibility viral misinformation or hackers could influence the vote, as in the 2016 USA presidential election.

The sign, which went up at about 5 a.m. local time, was removed after 45 minutes.

On Friday, students protesting both candidates blocked 10 high schools in Paris.

"I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run".

His prime minister "will have experience in the political field, the ability to lead a parliamentary majority and the ability to drive a thoroughly renewed government which will also include some experienced men and women", he said.

Still, in the first opinion poll conducted after the debate, which drew 16.5 million television viewers, 63 percent of respondents thought Macron had done better, versus 34 percent who favored Le Pen's performance.

The debate between the far-right Le Pen and her centrist rival Macron could be the climax of the heated campaign, as the two candidates attempt to shore up support from France's voters - 18 percent of whom are estimated to be undecided.

Le Pen shot back: "Let me tell you what happened - France will be led by a woman, it'll be either me, or Mrs. Merkel".

Asked Thursday on BFM TV whether she was formally accusing Macron of having a secret offshore account, Le Pen said: "Not at all".

Macron called Le Pen's policy of abandoning the euro a fatal plan that would unleash a currency war, and he accused her of failing to offer solutions to France's economic problems such as chronic unemployment.

Scoring 40 per cent in the runoff "would be an enormous victory", the candidate's niece and a fellow National Front lawmaker Marion Marechal-Le Pen, told website Boursorama on Thursday.

A poll for Les Echos newspaper by OpinionWay-SLPV Analytics suggested Macron's party was likely to emerge as the largest with between 249 and 286 seats in the 577-seat lower house, and the National Front was tipped to win 15 to 25.

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron filed a complaint Thursday after his far-right rival Marine Le Pen implied he had an "offshore account in the Bahamas", an aide said.

  • Arturo Norris