Centrist candidate comes out ahead of far-right leader in first round of election.
PARIS — Centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will contest a runoff vote for the French presidency on May 7 after coming first and second respectively in the election’s first round on Sunday.
The duel will present France with a stark choice — between Macron’s liberal, pro-EU platform and Le Pen’s nationalist vision, which would include a crackdown on immigration and a rejection of European integration. Macron is the clear favorite to clinch the presidency in the runoff — an opinion poll on Sunday night predicted he would win by 62 to 38 percent.
“I want to be your president in two weeks’ time — the president of all the people of France, the president of the patriots against the threat of the nationalists,” Macron, 39, told supporters at a rally in Paris after the results became clear. “In your name, I will take into the second round the optimism that we need and follow the path of hope that we want for our country and for Europe.”
At a rally in northern France, Le Pen, 48, told supporters: “The choice now is between wild globalization, a world in which terrorists can travel freely, and a France with strong borders.”
She said: “It is time to free the French people from the arrogant elite. I am the candidate of the people. I call all patriots wherever they come from, whatever their origin, to join me. What’s at stake is France’s survival.”
The first-round result represented a huge failure for France’s traditional major parties, the Socialists and the conservative Les Républicains, as neither of their candidates qualified for the second round. Senior figures from both big parties called on their supporters to unite behind Macron to ensure Le Pen’s National Front is defeated.
With all votes now counted, Macron — a former economy minister who formed his own independent political movement last year — won 24.01 percent. Le Pen had 21.30 percent, with conservative former Prime Minister François Fillon on 20.01 percent and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 19.58 percent. Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon came a distant fifth on 6.36 percent.
Fillon had been favorite to be France’s next president before he was hit by allegations he funneled public cash to his wife and children by hiring them for parliamentary work they did not do. At a gathering of his supporters in Paris, he assumed responsibility for his defeat and called on them to support Macron.
“There is no other choice but to vote against the National Front,” he said. “I will vote in favor of Emmanuel Macron.”
Socialist Hamon issued a similar appeal. “I call for a fight against the National Front and call for a vote for Emanuel Macron,” he said.
Either Macron or Le Pen will succeed deeply unpopular socialist President François Hollande, who decided not to run for another term.
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