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Hollande Keeps Final-Round Lead as Sarkozy Gains in French Poll

March 28 (Bloomberg) -- Socialist challenger Francois Hollande maintained his lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy for the decisive run-off of the French presidential election, while losing ground for the first round, a poll showed today.

The survey, conducted by TNS-Sofres/Sopra Group for I-Tele cable channel, shows Hollande would win a head-to-head race in the May 6 second round by 55 percent to 45 percent for Sarkozy. The gap narrowed from the 58-42 measured in the previous poll March 12.

Sarkozy gained over Hollande in the first-round survey, leading 29 percent against 28 percent for Hollande. Sarkozy gained 3 percentage points and Hollande lost two from March 12, TNS said.

Anti-immigrant campaigner Marine Le Pen was third at 15 percent, down one percentage point. Anti-capitalist candidate Jean-Luc Melanchon gained most, up 3.5 points to 13.5 percent.

Under the French system, the top two vote getters go into a run-off vote.

The survey was carried out March 26-27 among a sample of 1,000 people aged 18 and older and registered to vote. The pollster did not publish margins of error.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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