French election: Macron will face Le Pen in run-off

Supporters celebrate after the results of the first round of the presidential election. Picture: Getty

Supporters celebrate after the results of the first round of the presidential election. Picture: Getty

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Emmanuel Macron will face far right leader Marine Le Pen in a head-to-head battle for the French presidency as the country’s voters abandoned the orthodox political establishment.

Mr Macron, who quit current president Francois Hollande’s Socialists only last year ago to launch a new party, led the way with 23.7 per cent of the first round vote, according to an exit poll by Ipsos and Sopra Steria.

En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron and French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen. Picture: Getty

En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron and French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen. Picture: Getty

He led his Front National challenger Ms Le Pen by two points (21.7 per cent), with scandal-plagued Gaullist Francois Fillon and far-left challenger Jean-Luc Melenchon tied in third on 19.5 per cent.

Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon trailed in a distant fifth with 6.2 per cent of the vote.

Within minutes of the projections being announced there were protests and scuffles in the streets of Paris with tear gas fired at protesters by riot police.

Aside from seven years from 1974 when Valery Giscard d’Estaing was elected president, the run-off marks the first time since the Fifth Republic constitution was adopted in 1958 that both the Gaullists and Socialists have been rejected in the vote for the presidency.

After conceding defeat Mr Fillon joined fellow conservative politicians and Socialist prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve in throwing their weight behind Mr Macron as an anti-Le Pen candidate in the second round of voting on 7 May.

Mr Fillontold reporters in France said: “The voice of the right and centre can be heard in the [upcoming] parliamentary elections.

“While waiting, we have to choose: I don’t do it with joy in my heart but abstention is not in my genes.

“The Front National has a history known for its violence and intolerance: there is no other choice, I will vote in favour of Emmanuel Macron.”

Alain Juppe, the former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux, who was favourite to become president until beaten by Mr Fillon in a Gaullist primary, also backed Mr Macron “in his fight against the extreme right”.

Bookmakers made Mr Macron the odds-on favourite to win the run-off, with both Ladbrokes and Coral offering 1-6 and William Hill 1-8, with Ms Le Pen at 4-1, 7-2 and 9-2 respectively.

Pro-European Mr Macron was the Socialist finance minister until the autumn, when he quit to set up the En Marche movement, which he defines as centrist, and which has attracted support from left, centre and right.

The anti-EU Ms Le Pen’s campaign majored on jobs, security and the threat from Islamic extremism.

It also saw her deny French state complicity in rounding up Jews for the Nazis in the Second World War, but she also picked up muted plaudits from US president Donald Trump.

Speaking after the polls were released Ms Le Pen told the public: “You have the choice of an alternative, a true one.

“What I propose to use is a large alternative, the fundamental alternative that will put other faces in power.”

The country is going to the polls to elect the successor to Mr Hollande, who is not running after serving a single term in office.

Earlier, thousands of French expatriates had queued for hours at polling stations in London to cast their votes. There were long queues around the blockat the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle, near the Natural History Museum in Kensington,London, before the polling stations opened at 8am.

Polling stations have also been set up cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast, Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh for the large expatriate community to cast their votes, with 70 polling stations in total across the UK.

Bookmakers made Mr Macron the odds-on favourite to win the run-off., with both Ladbrokes and Coral offering 1-6, with Ms Le Pen at 4-1 and 7-2 respectively.

Conceding defeat, Mr Fillon told reporters in France: “The voice of the right and centre can be heard in the (upcoming) parliamentary elections.

“While waiting, we have to choose: I don’t do it with joy in my heart but abstention is not in my genes.

“The Front National has a history known for its violence and intolerance: there is no other choice, I will vote in favour of Emmanuel Macron.”

Alain Juppe, the former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux, who was favourite to become president until beaten by Mr Fillon in a Gaullist primary, also backed Mr Macron. “in his fight against the extreme right”.

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