Early projections on Sunday predicted Macron would win with 23.7 percent of the vote and Le Pen would take home 21.7 percent. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and conservative Republican party leader François Fillon were narrowly edged out of the final round. Those numbers were early estimates released after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time.
The runoff is a landmark moment in France’s political history, as both candidates would be the first members of a non-establishment party to become president. Macron would become the youngest leader of modern France and Le Pen the country’s first female president.
Beyond those record book achievements, however, the stakes for the final round of voting are enormous. Le Pen and her anti-European Union, anti-immigration party are now closer than ever before to the presidency. Although polls show Macron comfortably winning the matchup, the implications of a Le Pen upset are difficult to understate. Her victory could see France leave the European Union, enact restrictive laws targeting Muslims and pivot towards friendlier ties with Russia.
“This result is historic,” Le Pen said on Sunday evening, surrounded by celebrating supporters. She repeated her vow to tighten France’s borders, arguing that “the great issue in this election is the rampant globalization that is putting our civilization at risk.”
She also renewed her calling to curb immigration, adding that the vote would present the French a choice between a safe country or “the free circulation of terrorists.”
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The runoff in France’s presidential election on May 7 is a landmark moment in the country’s political history.
Amid fears of Le Pen’s far-right populism taking hold over the country, French and European politicians began throwing their support behind Macron for the final round. Figures across the political spectrum came together to back Macron, appearing to form a “cordon sanitaire” against the prospect of a Le Pen presidency.
“In one year we have changed the face of French politics,” Macron said on Sunday evening. “I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists.”
In his concession speech, conservative candidate for The Republicans and former Prime Minister François Fillon called on supporters to vote for Macron. “This defeat is mine and it is for me and me alone to bear it,” Fillon said. “Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right.”
Benoit Hamon, the candidate for the ruling Socialist Party who suffered a crushing defeat on Sunday, also threw his weight behind the centrist candidate. “I appeal to fight the National Front as strongly as possible by voting for Emmanuel Macron, even though he doesn’t belong to the left,” Hamon said.
He was joined in his appeal by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. “The presence of a candidate of the extreme-right in the second round of the presidential election, 15 years after the shock of April 2002, calls for a clear and strong position from all Republicans. That’s the reason why I’m calling on them to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential enlection to defeat the National Front,” Cazeneuve said in a statement.
The opposition to Le Pen from a wide swath of France’s politicians and parties is reminiscent of the last time the National Front entered the second round, in 2002. Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, then head of the party, was soundly defeated after voters from the left and right rallied against him. Le Pen’s opponents hope she will suffer the same fate.
Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
“I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists,” Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday evening.
Throughout the race, Macron’s pro-EU stance has also found favor in Brussels and Berlin, while his campaign accused the Kremlin-funded media outlets of trying to interfere in the vote.
European leaders on Sunday did not hesitate to congratulate him on the result.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman issued a statement wishing Macron “all the best.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel congratulated Macron on Twitter, wishing him success in an “optimistic” European project.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also expressed good wishes.
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Conservative candidate Fillon urged his supporters to vote for Macron in the second round of the election.
Far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the only front-runner who refused to endorse Macron on Sunday. Like Le Pen, Mélenchon is a staunch critic of the European Union and various other international institutions.
Mélenchon’s refusal to support Macron may potentially cost the centrist candidate crucial votes from the left in the runoff.
Some of supporters appeared bitter on Sunday night.
“I am staying home. The game is over, Macron is president already. I have no job. Macron, Le Pen, all the same,” Fahrid, a 37-year-old voter told Reuters. Fahrid said he would not vote in the second round.
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