Macron, the current president of France, appears close to garnering 28.6% of the vote, putting him in first place, according to an analysis by pollster Ifop-Fiducial for French broadcasters TF1 and LCI. Le Pen, the French far-right’s long-standing standard-bearer, is on track to take second place with 23.6%.
Twelve candidates were nominated for the highest office. If neither of them gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will face each other in the run-off on April 24. But the second round is almost guaranteed – no French presidential candidate has ever won the first round under the current system.
The competition has been marked by apathy among voters, according to Ifob-Vedusal. Voter turnout was estimated at 73.3%, the lowest in a first round in 20 years. While Macron looks set to win the first round, he is a polarizing figure whose popularity has lagged during his first term.
Macron urged voters to go out for the second round in a speech after polls closed.
“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. And while opinion polls have given him a steady lead on the field, the race has intensified dramatically in the last month.
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.
In third place came the controversial leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 20.1%. Mélenchon enjoyed a belated rise in support and was considered a potential candidate for the Black Horses to challenge Macron.
According to the analysis, no other candidate received more than 10% of the vote. Far-right political commentator-turned-presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who had a seat among the top three candidates as of March according to an Ifop poll, came fourth with 7%.
The candidates who were going to lose quickly began to throw their support behind the top two places. While Zemmour urged his supporters to vote for Le Pen, others urged their supporters to stay away from her.
Melenchon told his supporters that “we must not give a single vote to Mrs. Le Pen,” and that candidates from the traditional center-left and center-right parties, Socialists and Republicans, had already backed Macron.
Socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo said Le Pen’s victory would instill in France “the hatred of everyone against everyone”, while Republican Valérie Pecres said she was genuinely concerned for the country because “the far right has never been.” I’m about to win.”
“Marine Le Pen’s project will open France to discord, impotence and collapse,” Pecres said.
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.
An Ifop-Fiducial poll on Sunday showed Macron would win the second round against Le Pen with just 51% to 49%.
“The widespread discontent with Macron (especially among young people) means that the outcome is uncertain and unpredictable. Le Pen will continue to exploit this, and therefore significant political turmoil can still occur,” said Dominique Thomas, head of French and Dominique Thomas. Francophone studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said about a possible second round.
“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.”
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.
Macron has retained his grip on the number one spot in most opinion polls ahead of this year’s elections. An Ifop poll found that his 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, but 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, an expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained that the 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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