Macron, Le Pen head to French presidential runoff

(Update 1: Updates figures, minor edits throughout)

Paris, Apr 11 (EFE).- President Emmanuel Macron, a political liberal, and ultrarightist Marine Le Pen will vie for the French presidency in a runoff vote, just as they did five years ago, after garnering the two largest vote shares in the first electoral round on Sunday, according to government data from 97 percent of the ballots counted.

Macron obtained 27.6 percent of the votes while Le Pen received 23.4 percent, according to Interior Ministry figures early Monday, with this being the best-ever performance for the far right in any first presidential round.

The president thus improved on his first-round achievement five years ago, when he received 24.01 percent of the ballots, but Le Pen also managed to achieve better results than she did in the 2017 balloting, when she received 21.3 percent.

The results show a slight improvement for Macron compared with the last voter surveys before the poll, which also indicate that he will prevail in the runoff – scheduled for Apr. 24 – but by a smaller margin than in 2017, when he garnered almost double the votes that Le Pen managed to acquire.

Leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, trying to win the presidency for the third time, took 21.9 percent of the votes, a bit more than in 2017.

Ultrarightist Eric Zemmour came in fourth place with about 7 percent of the votes, and moderate rightist candidate Valerie Pecresse turned in the worst result in her party’s history, with 4.7 percent of the votes.

Something similar appeared to be the case for ecologist Yannick Jadot, who took 4.5 percent of the votes.

Ruralist candidate Jean Lassalle received about 3.1 percent, communist Fabien Roussel about 2.3 percent, while socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo got 1.7 percent, with Nicolas Dupont-Aignan at 2.07, according to the data.

The two Trotskyist candidates, Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud, did not manage to garner even 1 percent support.

Voter turnout, according to non-definitive figures, was about 72.7 percent, the lowest for a modern first presidential round since the record low of 71.6 percent set in 2002.

Macron said Sunday that he was extending his hand to all voters, stating that he was ready to “invent something new to unite diverse convictions and sensibilities” with an eye toward winning the runoff.

“Your confidence does me honor … Nothing is decided and the debate that we’ll have in the next two weeks is decisive for our country and for Europe,” the president said.

“I want to extend my hand to all those who want to work for France … I want to convince you in the coming days that our platform responds with greater solidarity than that of the extreme right to the fears and challenges of the epoch,” he said.

In his remarks to supporters, Macron thanked the majority of the candidates who have been excluded from the runoff for urging their voters to cast their ballots for him in the second round and said he was aware that that support does not mean that they are providing “direct” support for his program.

“Some will vote for me to stop the extreme right. I know that it will not be support for the program that I represent and I respect that,” said Macron, who admitted that when the extreme right carries so much weight in France “one cannot think that things are going well” and one must convince that part of the public “with great humility and respect.”

Almost immediately after the polls closed, Macron received the unequivocal support of several other candidates to stop the ultraright in the runoff, with Pecresse, Hidalgo, Jadot and Roussel all saying that they would vote for him and ask their own supporters directly to do so.

Le Pen would erase France “from the international scene” and “would bring chaos,” Pecresse said, while Melenchon said to applause from his supporters, “You mustn’t give even a single vote to Le Pen,” although he didn’t expressly ask them to vote for Macron.

Le Pen, meanwhile, received the support of Zemmour and Dupont-Aignant, who had backed her five years ago. EFE


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