Centrists Macron and Le Pen, long-standing champions of the far-right, were the top candidates in the first round of Sunday’s vote, taking 27.8% and 23.2% of the vote, respectively, according to the French interior ministry. Ministry.
Twelve candidates were nominated for the highest office. With none of them receiving more than 50% of the vote in the first round, the two top candidates will face each other in the run-off on April 24.
The first round of the 2022 competition was marked by apathy among voters, with turnout estimated at 73.3%, according to an analysis by the Ifop-Fiducial poll of French broadcasters TF1 and LCI – the lowest level in the first round in 20 years.
While Macron received more votes than any of the other candidates in the first round, he is a polarizing figure whose popularity has waned during his first term.
In a speech after polling stations closed Sunday, he urged citizens to vote in the second round.
“Nothing has been settled and the discussion that we will have over the next 15 days will be decisive for our country and for Europe,” he said. “I do not want a France which, having left Europe, will have its only allies populist internationalism and xenophobia. This is not us. I want a France faithful to humanity, to the spirit of the Enlightenment,” he said.
Macron is seeking to become the first French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002. Opinion polls have given him a steady edge over the rest of the field, but the race has heated up dramatically in the last month.
An Ifop-Fiducial poll on Sunday showed Macron would win the second round against Le Pen with just 51% to 49%.
Le Pen’s support has risen steadily in recent weeks. Although she is best known for her far-right policies such as severely restricting immigration and banning Islamic headscarves in public, this time she has run a more mainstream campaign, toning down her language and focusing more on pocket issues such as the rising cost of living. , a major concern to French voters.
In her speech on Sunday, Le Pen pledged to be president of “all the French” if she won the second round, and called on those who did not vote for Macron to support her in the second round.
Left-wing controversy Jean-Luc Mélenchon came third with 22% of the vote. He enjoyed a late rise in support and was considered a potential candidate for the Black Horses to challenge Macron.
Whoever Melenchon voters choose to back down in the second round, experts say, could decide the presidency. Mélenchon told his supporters that “we must not give a single vote to Ms. Le Pen”, but he did not explicitly support Macron.
No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote. Far-right political commentator-turned-presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who enjoyed a seat among the top three candidates through March, according to an Ifop poll, came fourth in the 7.1%.
Soon, the other candidates in Sunday’s poll began throwing their weight behind the first two candidates. While Zemmour called on his supporters to vote for Le Pen, others urged their supporters to stay away from her.
Candidates from the traditional center-left and centre-right parties, Socialists and Republicans, have already supported Macron.
Socialist Anne Hidalgo said Le Pen’s victory would instill in France “the hatred of everyone against everyone” while republican Valerie Pecres said she was genuinely concerned about the country because “the far right was not close to winning”.
“Marine Le Pen’s project will open France to discord, impotence and collapse,” Pecres said.
Macron’s political rise has shattered the playing field, as his centrist political party has pulled its supporters away from traditional centrist parties, socialists and republicans. Its candidates scored less than 5% on Sunday.
Polls before the race showed that the second round of Macron’s match against Le Pen was the most likely outcome. Macron easily beat Le Pen five years ago, but experts said the second contest between the two will be much narrower than in the 2017 race.
Macron’s signature policy during the crisis – which requires people to show proof of vaccination to go on with their lives as usual – has helped boost vaccination rates but has fueled minority anger against his presidency.
Macron, so far, has not campaigned very few. Experts believe his strategy was to avoid political vilification for as long as possible to slander him as the most presidential of all the candidates. The poll showed that he consistently leads all the candidates, and was seen as the best to conduct the second round.
“The widespread discontent with Macron (especially among young people) means that the outcome is uncertain and unpredictable. Le Pen will continue to exploit this, so significant political turmoil can still occur,” said CNN Europe commentator Dominique Thomas. the match.
“No matter how much they hate Le Pen, there is a huge difference between her and Macron, and how she will disrupt European and world politics.”
Le Pen is the daughter of the famous far-right presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. The older Le Pen reached the run-off against Jacques Chirac in 2002, but Marine Le Pen managed to do better than her father in the first round of each of the previous presidential elections.
The competition was initially expected to be a referendum on the far-right’s dominance of French politics, but the war in Ukraine – another major issue for voters – turned the race on its head.
According to an Ifop poll, Macron’s support peaked in early March, as potential voters rallied around the flag and rewarded the president for his attempts to mediate the conflict in Ukraine before the Russian invasion, even if it was a failure.
Many experts also expected the war to hurt Le Pen, who was an outspoken admirer of Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader who had become a pariah in the West over the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine in late February. Le Pen visited the Russian President during her 2017 election campaign; This time, she was forced to cancel a post with a photo of her and Putin from that trip after Russia’s unprovoked attack on its neighbor.
Thomas, CNN’s Europe affairs commentator, made it clear that upcoming discussions will be crucial if Macron is to convince voters that Le Pen’s previous support for Putin should rule her out.
“She will be weak on a number of domestic issues, but she will have a hard time persuading voters of her foreign policy credentials, especially given her longstanding ties to Russia,” he said.
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