Wednesday. 17.04.2024

Macron and Le Pen look set for French presidential election run-off

There were 12 candidates on the ballot as the main question essentially boiled down to whether the French want continuity with Macron or a lurch to the right with Le Pen

ILLUSTRATION - 08 April 2022, Bavaria, Nuremberg: Election documents of French presidential candidates such as Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa.
Election documents of French presidential candidates such as Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa.

The incumbent Emmanuel Macron was ahead in the first round of the French presidential election, with far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in second place, according to the Interior Ministry, meaning the pair are set to enter the second round on April 24.

Ministry figures based on 97% of registered voters early on Monday morning showed Macron was ahead of Le Pen, of the far-right National Rally, with 27.4% to her 24%.

As no one looked set to achieve an outright majority in the Sunday poll, the two candidates with the most votes will head to a run-off.

Macron told crowds of cheering supporters in Paris: "Your trust honours me, obliges me and binds me.

"You can all count on me to implement this project of progress and openness."

He warned, however, against a premature certainty of victory. "Let's not get carried away, nothing is decided," he said. Macron added that he is "very aware of what is at stake: The next two weeks will be decisive for our country."

Le Pen stressed France's independence and values. For the run-off, "two opposing visions of the future" had prevailed, she said in Paris on Sunday evening.

She said she represents "social justice around the millennia-old concept of nation and people."

She will ensure national independence and the ability of ordinary French people to decide for themselves, she said. "I will sort France out in five years," she opined.

"What is at stake on April 24 is not a choice of circumstances, but a choice for society, a choice for civilization," the 53-year-old said. "What place we want to give the people against the power of money depends on your vote."

Poll anticipates Macron's win

According to a survey on Sunday evening, Macron is set to get 54% of the vote in the run-off, figures from the polling institute Ipsos-Soprea Steria reported by broadcaster Franceinfo showed.

Left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon came third in the Sunday vote with some 21.7%.

"You should not give a single vote to Madame Le Pen," Mélenchon shouted to his supporters on Sunday evening.

"I know your anger," Mélenchon said. "Don't let it make you commit mistakes that cannot be undone."

The two most popular parties in France in the past, the socialists and the conservatives, suffered historic defeats in the first round.

The conservative Republicans with top candidate Valérie Pécresse achieved only some 4.7% of the vote with most ballots counted.

The Socialists, who held the presidency from 2012 to 2017 with François Hollande, plummeted to just 1.7%.

Pécresse urged people to vote for incumbent Macron, saying that, should Le Pen come to power, there would be "disastrous consequences for the country and for future generations."

She admitted that the result was "a personal and collective disappointment."

Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo also called for people to vote for Macron in the run-off "to ensure that France does not tip over into hatred of all against all," she wrote to supporters on Sunday evening.

Green candidate Yannick Jadot, with 4.5% of the vote, echoed the calls for support for Macron to prevent Le Pen, he said. "No one should play down the fundamental threat that the extreme right poses to democracy, civil peace, ecology and the values of the republic."

Macron thanked the defeated candidates for their support.

Respectful election campaign

In a speech, he acknowledged all of his 11 opponents by name and praised a respectful election campaign. He expressed special thanks to those among them who had already declared support for him in the run-off against Le Pen.

He recognized that some people will vote for him "to prevent the far-right and I am fully aware that that is not support for what I am doing, and I respect that."

The extreme right camp headed by right-wing publicist Éric Zemmour, meanwhile, called for the election of Le Pen.

"Emmanuel Macron is the main opponent. He is the president of massive immigration, the president of insecurity, the president of deindustrialization," Le Pen's niece, Marion Maréchal, told TF1.

The leader of the Italian far-right party Lega, Matteo Salvini, congratulated Le Pen for he results. "Very good Marine, we are happy for your success and proud of your work, you courage, you ideas and your friendship," he wrote on Twitter.

There were 12 candidates on the ballot as the main question essentially boiled down to whether the French want continuity with Macron or a lurch to the right with Le Pen.

There are about 48.7 million registered voters in France. But there were concerns of a low voter turnout. According to the Ipsos polling institute, turnout shortly after polls closed was at 74%.

War in Ukraine

The election campaign got off to a slow start and was overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.

Macron only announced his candidacy at the last minute, but enjoyed an early lead in the polls, primarily due to strong perceptions of his attempts to seek a diplomatic end to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, Le Pen had surged in recent weeks.

Despite his decisive win five years ago, Macron has made many enemies while in office, including among members of the Yellow Vest movement, who were angered by his stance on the fuel tax, which led to a wider debate about quality of life. Vaccine sceptics have also been put off by his combative push to get as many people as possible immunized against the coronavirus.

Additionally, now that the fighting in Ukraine has passed the six-week mark, the initial glow of his diplomatic work has faded, especially as French voters have become more aware of the economic turmoil the fighting is likely to cause for them.

However, Macron's team has been quick to point out his early work on labour market reform and efforts to jump-start the economy after the initial coronavirus lockdowns were lifted.

Le Pen has done everything she can to sanitize her image, given the National Rally's long-time association with her father and his more extreme right-wing views. Thus, while she is still well to the right, she has also made inroads with blue collar parts of the country with her focus on traditional French values.

She also took advantage of the Ukraine crisis to put an electoral focus on concerns about purchasing power, which has scored well.

And she has benefited from the candidacy of Zemmour, who made her look like a more electable candidate to many.

The French president has far-reaching powers and holds office for five years. The president is more powerful than the prime minister he or she appoints and has a decisive influence on the country's fate.

The election outcome is also of considerable interest for Europe as a whole. The liberal centrist Macron is seen as a far easier and more reliable partner than Le Pen.

Macron and Le Pen look set for French presidential election run-off