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

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.

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