French Socialist presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande on Thursday vowed if elected to "dominate finance", after warnings from the right that his victory would spark market panic.
Hollande is on course to unseat right-wing incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in the vote to choose the powerful leader of the eurozone's second economy, which will be conducted over two rounds on April 22 and May 6.
Two new polls released Thursday showed Hollande moving ahead of Sarkozy in first-round voter intentions and holding on to his strong second-round lead, as a recent small Sarkozy surge appeared to lose momentum,.
The polls by firms LH2 and BVA showed Hollande beating Sarkozy with scores of 29.5 and 30 percent, ahead of the incumbent with 27 percent. Hollande had 55 percent in the second round in the LH2 poll and 56 percent in the BVA poll.
Another poll on Thursday by Opinionway showed Sarkozy with a slight lead in the first round, with 28 percent to 27 percent for Hollande, and Hollande taking the second round with 54 percent.
But with the race tight and Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon rising in the polls, Hollande was looking to cement his left-wing credentials.
Sarkozy on Wednesday warned that a Hollande victory would "trigger a massive crisis of confidence" among investors with markets already on edge over renewed fears on the public finances of Spain and Italy.
Hollande, who once famously referred to the world of finance as the "enemy", hit back hard, accusing Sarkozy of racking up debt and allowing France to be bullied by the world of finance.
He said he would fight "speculation" and work with France's EU partners to better regulate markets, rather that surrendering to them as he charged Sarkozy has done since his election in 2007.
"What I want is for us to show, France but also Europe, that we have a shared capacity to dominate finance," Hollande said on public television.
"And if the markets are worried... I will tell them here and now that I will leave them no space to act," he said.
Hollande also dismissed fears his election would trigger a speculative attack on the euro, noting that he has been the poll frontrunner for months so markets have had time to get used to the idea of him as president.
"It's the outgoing president who brought the country to the situation it is in. Public debt has grown by 600 billion euros ($787 billion), we've lost our triple-A credit rating and we have a trade deficit of 70 billion euros.
"And now he comes to tell us: 'Watch out, it could be even worse if someone else was in charge'? Well, no it couldn't," he said.
Hollande is running on a traditional Socialist platform, vowing to boost taxes on the wealthy and increase spending, including with the hiring of tens of thousands of state employees.
He has lashed out at the right's fixation on austerity, vowing instead to focus on economic recovery through growth.
But he has said he will eliminate France's budget deficit by 2017, only a year later than Sarkozy is promising.
Hollande has also threatened to re-open talks on the fiscal pact that European Union members have signed committing them to tough debt-reduction measures in a bid to restore confidence in the single-currency bloc.
Economic analysts said Thursday that a Hollande victory would cause uncertainties on the markets, but not spark chaos.
"When I look on my list of possible triggers for a new wave of uncertainties in the sovereign debt crisis, one of the triggers would clearly be a Hollande victory," said Joerg Kraemer, chief economist at Commerzbank.
"Hollande's opposition to the fiscal compact makes it more difficult to formulate together with Germany a common vision for the eurozone's future."
Robert Halver, an analyst at Baader Bank in Frankfurt, said a Socialist win could lead to "the flight of some investors to markets considered more stable" but that "this will only last a few weeks".
Sarkozy has accused his opponent of being fiscally irresponsible and is keen to persuade voters that he is the best man to win market confidence and get the economy back on track.
Ten candidates will stand for president on April 22, then two frontrunners will face a run-off on May 6. Legislative elections will follow in June.