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France's Macron and Le Pen head for cliffhanger April 24 election runoff

Economy Apr 10, 2022 08:27PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election in the 2022 French presidential election, speaks with supporters during a campaign trip in Spezet, France, Avril 5, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo 2/3

By Layli Foroudi, Tassilo Hummel and Ingrid Melander

PARIS (Reuters) -French leader Emmanuel Macron and challenger Marine Le Pen qualified on Sunday for what promises to be a very tightly fought presidential election runoff on April 24, pitting a pro-European economic liberal against a far-right nationalist.

With partial results putting Macron in first place ahead of Le Pen after the first-round voting, other major candidates admitted defeat. Except for another far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, they all urged voters to block the far-right in the second round.

But after five years in power in which his abrasive style has upset many, while Le Pen succeeded in softening her image, Macron will have to fight hard to win back disgruntled voters. He cannot take it for granted that voters will rally around a traditional anti-far right front.

"Nothing is decided, and the battle we will wage in the next 15 days will be decisive for France and Europe," Macron told supporters, urging all voters to rally behind him on April 24th to stop the far-right from ruling the European Union's second-largest economy.

Ifop pollsters predicted a very tight runoff, with 51% for Macron and 49% for Le Pen. The gap is so tight that victory either way is within the margin of error.

Other pollsters offered a slightly bigger margin in favour of Macron, with up to 54%. But that was in any case much narrower than in 2017, when Macron beat Le Pen with 66.1% of the votes.

Le Pen, who had eaten into Macron's once-commanding 10-point poll lead in recent weeks thanks to a campaign focused on cost-of-living issues said she was the one to protect the weak and unite a nation tired of its elite.

"What will be at stake on April 24 is a choice of society, a choice of civilisation," she told supporters, who chanted "We will win!" as she told them: "I will bring order back to France."

Macron, meanwhile, told supporters waving French and EU flags: "The only project that is credible to help purchasing power is ours."

"DISASTROUS"

With 96% of the votes counted for Sunday's first round, Macron garnered 27.41% of the votes and Le Pen 24.03%. A near total count of the vote was expected for later in the night.

A Le Pen victory on April 24 would be a similar jolt to the establishment as Britain's Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU) or Donald Trump's 2017 entry into the White House.

France would lurch from being a driving force for European integration to being led by a euro-sceptic who is also suspicious of the NATO military alliance.

While Le Pen has ditched past ambitions for a "Frexit" or to haul France out of the euro zone's single currency, she envisages the EU as a mere alliance of sovereign states.

Conservative candidate Valerie Pecresse warned of "disastrous consequences" if Macron lost, while the Socialists' Anne Hidalgo urged supporters to vote for him "so that France does not fall into hatred."

"Not one vote for Le Pen!" added hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who, according to the estimates, placed third with around 20% of the votes.

But they all also had very harsh words for Macron and some of the very unpopular policies of his first mandate as well as an abrasive style that has put off many voters.

"Emmanuel Macron played with fire," Pecresse told supporters.

"PAY ATTENTION"

Zemmour acknowledged disagreements with Le Pen, but said Macron was a worse choice.

Barely a month ago, Macron seemed on course for a comfortable re-election that, riding high in polls thanks to strong economic growth, a fragmented opposition and his statesman role in trying to avert war in Ukraine on Europe's eastern flank.

But he paid a price for late entry into the campaign during which he eschewed market walkabouts in provincial France in favour of a single big rally outside Paris. A plan to make people work longer also proved unpopular, enabling Le Pen to narrow the gap.

Le Pen, an open admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin until his invasion of Ukraine, had for months toured towns and villages across France. She focused on cost-of-living issues troubling millions and tapped into anger toward rulers.

"Marine Le Pen knew how to talk to people about their more concrete problems. During the next two weeks he (Macron) will have to pay more attention to what is happening in France, take a diplomatic break," said Adrien Thierry, a 23-year old Macron supporter.

As the vote count progressed, Melenchon's score rose to close to Le Pen's, with 21.57% of the votes, while none of the others were in the double-digits, leading some supporters to briefly hope for a change in the final line-up, which eventually seemed out of reach.

France's Macron and Le Pen head for cliffhanger April 24 election runoff
 

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Comments (18)
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Apr 11, 2022 1:31AM ET
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le pen represents the hateful fascist ideology of cretins like putler, orban, bolsonaro, trump etc. that the good and sane people of this world must fight against in order to secure our freedom and the survival of our species
Michael Michaelson
BottomFeeder Apr 10, 2022 8:40PM ET
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I don't understand why every single article describes Le Pen as "far right". Read her policies. They sound just like US 1960s liberal ideas. Lower retirement age. No tax on necessary items. No income tax for workers under 30 to give them a chance to get ahead. Nothing radical or "far right" here. Maybe compared to normal French politics this is "far right". I don't see it though.
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Apr 10, 2022 5:10PM ET
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I seem to remember the great friendship and financial support le pen got from putin her opposition to EU and the EURO….And now she a born again christian with new opinion because she found out that there are no votes in loving putin and be against EU
Vincenzo Tilotta
Vincenzo Tilotta Apr 10, 2022 5:10PM ET
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Damn right Ken
Todd Kacsmar
Todd Kacsmar Apr 10, 2022 3:44PM ET
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If you put your country first Iike Ieaders shouId you are deemed a racsit
Meru Pet
Meru Pet Apr 10, 2022 2:50PM ET
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2 authoritarians Marxists
Christos Rousakis
Christos Rousakis Apr 10, 2022 2:13PM ET
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lierssssss Euro circusssss macron save euro circusssss hahahaha funny junk
Alan Rice
Alan Rice Apr 10, 2022 1:16PM ET
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Le Penn : un jeste.
Karam Rajeh
Karam Rajeh Apr 10, 2022 10:23AM ET
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Also, note that the left & right is the same. Its main purpose is to condition and divide the people instead of uniting.
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Apr 10, 2022 10:23AM ET
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Uh no, the left if for expanding government and the right is for limiting government. Very simple so average pin head understands. Forget all the other nonsense you see means nothing.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Apr 10, 2022 10:23AM ET
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Trevor Roberts lmao the right loves to expand government. Last balanced budget was under clinton rofl
Karam Rajeh
Karam Rajeh Apr 10, 2022 10:20AM ET
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Left & right is the same. It’s purpose is to condition and divide people. Also, macron is a clown.
Christos Rousakis
Christos Rousakis Apr 10, 2022 8:03AM ET
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save euro circusssss haha save euro junk this is eurozone is the biggest circusssss ever
 
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