President Emmanuel Macron is set to face his nationalist rival Marine Le Pen in the final round of the French election in a re-run of their 2017 race that will resonate across Europe.
Mr Macron received 27.6% of the vote, compared to 23.4% of Miss Le Pen, according to Home Office figures, which counted 97% of registered voters. Snap polls taken after the vote ended gave the 44-year-old president a narrow advantage in the run-up to the April 24 runoff. Three studies have shown that he is at least 54% to 46% ahead and others have shown narrow leadership. European stock futures drop on poles showing a tight race.
“The game is not over yet,” Mr Macron told his supporters in a brief speech on Sunday night.
Although the president’s perceived arrogance turned off many voters and helped frame Miss Le Pen as “president of the rich”, she has made France a preferred destination for foreign investors and pushed employment to record highs. He was at the forefront of efforts to end the war in Ukraine, deepening economic ties between members of the European Union and, as the leader of the bloc’s most powerful military force, developing a common defense policy.
Everything could be revealed if she lost to Mrs. Le Pen.
“The debate we will have in the next two weeks will be decisive for our country and for Europe,” said Mr Macron.
As the vote shrunk before the first round of voting, French equities, bonds and the euro all came under pressure to worry that a Le Pen presidency would make France less business-friendly and more Eurosceptic.
Mr Macron avoided explicit campaigning until the vote was close, instead throwing himself into the safe haven as he focused on the Ukraine crisis. His main asset in the election is a strong economic record.
Mrs Le Pen, however, expressed concern about inflation and campaigned hard across the country for the cost of living. On Sunday night her supporters were overwhelmed, singing the French national anthem as initial speculation was expressed that she would receive her first round results from 2017.
“Everyone who did not vote for Emanuel Macron today must join the movement,” he told the cheering crowd. “I urge the French people, from the left or the right, to join this great national and popular movement, of any descent.”
Jean-Paul Garroud, a lawmaker in the European Parliament who switched allegiance from the traditional center-right party in France to support the nationalists, said, “I agree to win Marine Le Pen.” “Macron is now on the defensive.”
Republican candidate Valerie Pecres, who received 4.8%, called on his supporters to support Mr. Macron in the second round, even criticizing the president for pushing voters toward Mrs. Le Pen. Green leader Yannick Jadot, who received 4.6%, backed Mr Macron, along with several other candidates.
Eric Jemur, a former TV pundit who has been convicted three times for hate speech, who also favored the right-wing vote, urged his supporters to support Miss Le Pen. Mr. Jemmur finished fourth with 8.1%.
“There is a lot of support for the extreme right in our country,” said Clement Beaune, Mr Macron’s junior minister in Europe, in an interview. “A war must be won.”
The critical pool could be 22% of voters who supported the third-ranked far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon. In a waiver speech, Mr Melenchon told his supporters they should give Miss Le Pen “not a vote” but did not support Mr Macron. Miss Le Pen’s protectionist stance on economic issues has allowed her to reach out to some voters who have traditionally supported leftist candidates and are angry at Mr Macron’s support for business and investment.
“Melenchon voters don’t want Macron to be re-elected,” Garaud said. “What will they do?”
A presidential debate scheduled for April 20 will be important. Mrs. Le Pen’s 2017 campaign was effectively drowned out by a disastrous head-to-head performance on television that year, and she’s working with advisers to make sure she’s better prepared at this point.
Mr Macron resumed campaigning on Monday, when he would tour northern France and sit down for an interview on BFM TV in the evening. – Bloomberg