Source: Reuters
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  • France’s incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen are heading for an April 24 presidential election run-off, projections showed after first-round voting on Sunday
  • With 96 per cent of votes counted, Mr Macron won 27.4 per cent in the first round, with Ms Le Pen at 24 per cent
  • The election promises to be a very tightly fought presidential election runoff, pitting a pro-European economic liberal against a far-right nationalist who, until the Ukraine war, was an open admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • Ifop pollsters predicted a tight race, with 51 per cent for Mr Macron and 49 per cent for Ms Le Pen, a margin so small victory either way is within sight

France’s incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen are heading for an April 24 presidential election run-off, projections showed after first-round voting on Sunday.

With 96 per cent of votes counted, Mr Macron won 27.4 per cent in the first round, with Ms Le Pen at 24 per cent.

The election promises to be a very tightly fought presidential election runoff, pitting a pro-European economic liberal against a far-right nationalist who, until the Ukraine war, was an open admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Other contesting candidates, except far-right candidate Eric Zemmour, have admitted defeat and urged their followers not to vote for the far-right.

Ifop pollsters predicted a tight race, with 51 per cent for Mr Macron and 49 per cent for Ms Le Pen, a margin so small victory either way is within sight.

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

However, this will prove to be Mr Macron’s greatest challenge as his abrasive style has upset many after five years in power.

His late entry into the campaign during which he eschewed market walkabouts in provincial France in favour of a single big rally outside Paris, which was the opposite of Ms Le Pen who toured towns and villages across France for months, focusing on cost-of-living issues that trouble millions and tapping into anger towards the political elite.

His proposed plan to make people work for longer before retirement also proved unpopular, enabling Ms Le Pen to narrow the gap in opinion polls.

President Macron will have to contend with Ms Le Pen’s growing support amongst the French people, who has successfully soften her image with the number of people who found her “scary” have nearly halved.

In past elections at national, regional and municipal levels, left- and right-wing voters have historically united to block the far right from power, a phenomenon known as a ‘republicain front’.

However, with only a predicted 51 per cent to Macron, political observers believe that this is a clear indication the “republicain front” that has bolstered pro-European economic liberal is crumbling.

While all mainstream candidates, including those of the conservative Les Republicains and Socialist party, endorsed President Macron for the runoff on Sunday night, it is not clear their voters will follow.

Moreover, their low single-digit scores were so low that their support may carry little weight.

Ms Le Pen, who had eaten into the President’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, uniting all of France.

“I intend without waiting to sew back up the tears that a torn-apart France suffers,” she said.

The run-off “will be a choice of civilisation,” she said, adding that her platform would make France independent.

It is evident the President has a lot to do in the next two week to seek re-election and prevent France from falling into the far-right bloc.

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