Election in France: it's between Macron and Le Pen

Geneva Matthews
April 24, 2017

French nationals in Montreal expressed mixed reactions on Sunday as preliminary results showed far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron leading in the first round of France's presidential election.

"In one year, we have changed the French political landscape", Mr Macron told jubilant supporters in Paris, calling on voters to unite behind him as the "voice of optimism and hope for our country and Europe".

Supporters of Mr Macron and his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen, went wild with cheers as polling agency projections suggested they could advance to the presidential run-off.

Opinion polls released after the first-round showed the pro-business moderniser would easily beat Le Pen, who has hardened her anti-immigration and anti-Europe rhetoric over the last week.

The outcome will show whether the populist tide that saw Britain vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's election in the United States is still rising, or starting to ebb.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

As he conceded defeat he urged voters to back Emmanuel Macron, saying Ms Le Pen would bankrupt France if elected. "The challenge is to open a new page in our political life and to take action so that everyone his able to find his or her place in France and in Europe". No disruptions took place when Le Pen was present at the polling place.

"We can now conclude that (Frexit) is off the table, assuming that most people will now regard Mr. Macron as the likely victor of round two", said Marie Owens Thomsen, head of economic research at Indosuez Wealth Management in London. "You will get a France that protects the people, we will not have the free circulation of terrorists".

Even if Le Pen springs a surprise on May 7, her "Frexit" ambitions will require constitutional change which experts say will be hard, especially as her National Front party only has a handful of federal lawmakers and is seen as highly unlikely to win anything like a majority in June's parliamentary elections. But the scenario that provoked most pre-election concern and threatened the survival of the European Union - far right versus the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon - was avoided.

"And Macron, I don't really have confidence in him either".

Macron also drew immediate support from his defeated rivals from the Socialists and Republicans.

Hamon, forecast to win a humiliating six percent and finish in fifth place, said the left had suffered a "historic drubbing" but said voters should back Macron to keep out Le Pen who he said was "an enemy of the republic". "It's one or the other, but not the candidates I would have preferred", he added.

Fillon was seen as a favourite until January when his campaign was torpedoed by allegations that he gave his British-born wife a fictitious job as his parliamentary assistant.

The former prime minister has accused Hollande of being behind a campaign to destabilise him and said in a concession speech the obstacles he had faced were "too numerous, too cruel".

He was on course for around 19.2 percent of the vote, underlining the strength of anti-establishment sentiment. Pollsters are unclear about what a low or high turnout could mean in 2017.

That issue, and the general trustworthiness of politicians, stands out, polls say, even though security has re-entered the debate since Thursday's killing of a policeman.

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