South Korean software tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo, who once led opinion polls in the presidential race, is finding his centrist approach and platform of championing markets drowned out by public demands for a clampdown on the country's scandal-hit elite.

The 55-year-old former medical doctor is trying to channel France's Emmanuel Macron after falling behind former party comrade Moon Jae-in ahead of the May 9 election. Moon has pulled ahead by vowing to crack down on graft, following influence-peddling allegations that forced former President Park Geun-hye out of office. A Gallup poll published Friday put Moon's support at 40 percent, compared with 24 percent for Ahn.

"Ahn presents himself as the third way in a political landscape divided between reformists and conservatives," said Nam Chang-hee, a political science professor at South Korea's Inha University. He's "driving home topics like pollution and technology, which don't really help him stand out" in the current climate.