Emmanuel Macron, a centrist politician who’s never held elective office, and Marine Le Pen, the far-right, firebrand who wants to take France out of the European Union, are expected to advance to next month’s run-off for the presidency of the country, according to projections based on early vote counts.
Macron was estimated to have won 23.7 percent of the vote with Le Pen taking about 21.7 percent. Francois Fillon, the only establishment candidate among the front-runners, appeared tied for third place with left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon with about 19.5 percent of the vote each.
If the projections hold up, which are traditionally seen as reliable, it will set up a battle in May between two politicians with not only completely different visions for France but – more significantly – utterly different views of one of the biggest issues facing many voters in the West today: globalization.
Le Pen took the stage Sunday night, with a France-first message, and said she would “liberate the French people” and fight against the “wild type of globalization” that would include “no borders” and the “free circulation of terrorists.”
“(French voters) will reject those who keep telling them how to vote and what to believe,” she said. “I am the candidate of the French people.”
She accused her opponent of trying to be “heir” to current French President Francois Holland. Macron, a liberal, former investment banker and an avowed internationalist, worked as economy minister in France’s Socialist government. Holland called him Sunday night to congratulate him on qualifying for the second round of voting, set for May 7.
Laurence Haim, a spokeswoman for Macron, told France 24 that she sees the run-off as fairly clear cut.
“You have the matter of someone who is a progressive person, who believes in democracy, against the far right,” she said. “That’s it.”
Le Pen has run a tough, anti-immigrant campaign and has vowed to take France out of the European Union. The United Kingdom is already in the process of pulling out of the 28-national trading bloc. Were France to also head for the door, most analysts think it would kill an institution that helped keep the peace and bind Europe together for decades.
Many analysts here say that because of her far-right policies, Le Pen cannot beat Macron in a head-to-head, national race. Haim mentioned the American presidential election of Donald Trump, which many in the media obviously had pegged as a long shot, as motivation for the Macron campaign not to listen to “experts” and work until election day.
Macron was given a boost when Fillon conceded on Sunday and endorsed him.
“The obstacles were too cruel… This defeat is mine,” Fillon told supporters. “There is no other choice but to vote against the far right, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron.”
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