Historic result in French election, as far-right’s Le Pen and centrist Macron advance to runoff showdown

Emmanuel Macron is now on course for the presidency, and is predicted to trounce Marine Le Pen in the May 7 second round of voting

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 3:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 9:44am

French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are advancing to the presidential runoff, after major opponents conceded defeat in Sunday’s first round of voting.

For the first time in modern French history, no mainstream party candidate is advancing, upending the country’s political system.

Voters will choose on May 7 between Macron, a former investment banker and ex-economy minister who only launched his En Marche! party last year, and Le Pen, who has tried to scrub her National Front party of its history of racism and anti-Semitism.

With nearly all of France’s 47 million strong electorate accounted for, official tallies from the Interior Ministry put Macron on 23.82 per cent of votes and Le Pen on 21.58 per cent, conservative Francois Fillon at 19.96 per cent, and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon on 19.49 per cent

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Macron is now heavily favoured to become president - a Harris Interactive poll for M6 television found that 64 per cent of those surveyed on Sunday would vote for him in a two-horse race with Le Pen, while an Ipsos Sopra Steria poll for France Televisions saw Macron winning 62 per cent of the vote.

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Addressing a crowd of cheering supporters in Paris, the pro-EU Macron said he wanted to be “the president of the patriots against the threat of nationalists.”

“In your name, I will be... the voice of hope for our country and for Europe.”

Le Pen vowed to defend France against “rampant globalisation” after the results showed her advancing.

“This result is historic. It puts on me a huge responsibility to defend the French nation, its unity, its security, its culture, its prosperity and its independence,” Le Pen told supporters.

“The main thing at stake in this election is the rampant globalisation that is endangering our civilisation,” she added, urging French voters to shake off the shackles of an “arrogant elite”.

France’s prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on voters to support centrist candidate Macron, moments after the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon conceded defeat.

Others who conceded included scandal-struck conservative Francois Fillon, who also said he would be voting for Macron in the run-off.

“There is no other choice but to vote against the far right, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” Fillon told supporters.

Supporters of Le Pen and Macron went wild with cheers as the polling agency projections showed they would advance.

“We will win!” Le Pen supporters chanted in her election day headquarters in Henin-Beaumont. They burst into a rendition of the French national anthem, and waved French flags and blue flags with “Marine President” inscribed on them.

Macron supporter Mathilde Julien said that “he represents France’s future, a future within Europe.”

Silence and disappointed sighs rose up instead at the headquarters of conservative Fillon in Paris as projections appeared on TV screens showing him in third place and unable to make it into the runoff.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse and Reuters