France woke up this morning to the news that independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen would go head-to head in the presidential run-off on 7 May.
Former Minister of the Economy, the 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron took 23.7% of the vote for his progressive political movement, En Marche, in the first round.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, came in second in the opening round, polling 21.5% nationally.
high turnout in close race
Right up until the first-round vote, pollsters thought the race was too close to call between Macron, Le Pen, Republican Francois Fillon, who took 19.9% of the vote, and far-left Jean-Luc Melanchon, who took 19.6%.
Turnout was high at 78%, though slightly down on the 2012 participation rate of 79.48%, with nearly 47 million votes counted overall.
Le Pen in the North
In Marion Le Pen’s northern stronghold in the Pas-de-Calais, she accounted for over 34% of the vote.
Within Le Pen’s own Henin-Beaumont constituency, reactions to her triumph in the first round were mixed.
55-year old salesman, Bruno Breisacher, who voted for Le Pen said:
“I will vote again for Marine Le Pen in the second round, all while hoping, despite everything, to salvage what we can, that Mr Emmanuel Macron wins in the second round. It’s a protest vote, because we’re fed up. There are no jobs, the children don’t have a future.”
In traditionally socialist Pas-de-Calais the left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melanchon came second to Le Pen with a 19.2% share of the vote, with Macron trailing in third place.
Reactions from Paris
In Paris, some voters expressed their disappointment that Francois Fillon had not made it through to the second round.
Alex Maldgen, a Parisian businessman, said that:
“It was at the last minute that I had a look at their programmes and Fillon’s corresponded more to the structure of what I was hoping for, but Macron’s doesn’t bother me, he is more a social-democrat and that works for me.”
Another passer-by said that:
“Today I am not looking at the candidates but more the programme, I voted Fillon in the first round and in the second round the choice will be hard, the choice will be hard.”
Macron took 34.83% of the Parisian vote, with Fillon coming in second with 26.45%.Marine Le Pen was in fifth place with just 4.99%.
Speaking from Paris, euronews’s correspondent Anne Devineaux said:
“By pushing the two big parties out of the game, the French have provoked an unprecendented and profound political earthquake. They now have a choice between two contrasting candidates. Especially concerning Europe. One of the key subjects in the second round.”