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Sarkozy Loses Ground to Hollande as Le Pen, Bayrou Gain in Poll

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March 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Nicolas Sarkozy is losing ground against Socialist Francois Hollande in their battle for the French leadership as candidates from smaller parties garnered more support, a poll showed.

Sarkozy would get 23 percent of votes and Hollande 30.5 percent in a first round of the election on April 22. The gap between the two candidates widened to 7.5 percentage points in the survey conducted on March 2-3 from six points on Feb. 19, the poll published today by LH2 poll for Yahoo! showed.

Support for anti-euro candidate Marine Le Pen rose one point to 15 percent while centrist Francois Bayrou gained two points to 15 percent.

Under the French system, the top two vote-getters in the first round face off if nobody wins a majority. Sarkozy is also increasingly trailing Hollande in the May 6 second round of the election with support at 42 percent, against 58 percent for his Socialist rival. That 16-point gap is more than the 10-point difference measured on Feb. 19.

Lh2 interviewed 971 registered voters by telephone. The margin of error ranged between plus or minus 2.5 percentage points and 4 points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Katz in Paris at akatz5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.net.