Macron Decisively Defeats Le Pen in French Presidential Race

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Emmanuel Macron Delivers Victory Speech

France’s president-elect spoke at the Louvre after defeating the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron, a youthful former investment banker, handily won France’s presidential election on Sunday, defeating the staunch nationalist Marine Le Pen after voters firmly rejected her far-right message and backed his call for centrist change.

Mr. Macron, 39, who has never held elected office, will be the youngest president in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic after leading an improbable campaign that swept aside France’s establishment political parties.

The election was watched around the world for magnifying many of the broader tensions rippling through Western democracies, including the United States: populist anger at the political mainstream, economic insecurity among middle-class voters and rising resentment toward immigrants.

Mr. Macron’s victory offered significant relief to the European Union, which Ms. Le Pen had threatened to leave. His platform to loosen labor rules, make France more competitive globally and deepen ties with the European Union is also likely to reassure a global financial market that was jittery at the prospect of a Le Pen victory.

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Her loss provided further signs that the populist wave that swept Britain out of the European Union and Donald J. Trump into the White House may have crested in Europe, for now.

“I understand the divisions of our country that have led some to vote for extremists,” Mr. Macron said after the vote. “I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a great part among us have also expressed.”

Mr. Macron pledged to do all he could in his five-year term to bring France together. “I will do everything I can in the coming five years to make sure you never have a reason to vote for extremism again,” he said later Sunday evening, standing before the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre, once the main residence of France’s kings, as thousands of flag-waving supporters gathered in the courtyard to celebrate.

But the election results showed that many people chose not to vote for either candidate, signaling skepticism about his project. And Mr. Macron quickly made clear that he understood the magnitude of the task before him after an often angry campaign.

Video

Supporters Elated by Macron’s Election

French citizens hoping the centrist candidate would become France’s next president were overcome with joy and relief as the final result came in.

By CAMILLA SCHICK and STEFANIA ROUSSELLE on Publish DateMay 7, 2017. Photo by Eric Feferberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

“It is my responsibility to hear and protect the most fragile,” he said.

With nearly 100 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Macron had 66 percent, compared with 34 percent for Ms. Le Pen, according to the official count from the Interior Ministry.

The outcome was a watershed for Ms. Le Pen’s party, the far-right National Front, giving it new legitimacy even though the results showed that the party remains anathema to much of the French electorate for its history of anti-Semitism, racism and Nazi nostalgia.

As significant for France and for Mr. Macron’s future, nearly 34 percent of eligible voters did not cast a ballot or cast a blank or null one, suggesting that a large number of people could not bring themselves to vote for him. The abstention rate was the highest since 1969.

That lack of support presaged a difficult road ahead as Mr. Macron tries to build a legislative majority to push through his program. French parliamentary elections are next month. Currently, he has no party in Parliament.

Among the odds stacked against Mr. Macron, a former economy minister in the departing Socialist government, are deep doubts about the merits of a market economy.

“We saw the emergence of very strong anticapitalist forces,” said Gaspard Koenig, the director of the French think tank Generation Libre.

“You have 50 percent of the electorate that reject the market economy in a very radical way,” Mr. Koenig added. “Thus, he must during the next five years convince people that there are alternatives to the destruction of capitalism that can help them.”

The runoff election was groundbreaking for being a choice between two political outsiders, as well as for its rancor and for an apparent attempt to sway the vote with the hacking of Macron campaign emails, similar to the attack directed at last year’s election in the United States.

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC

How France Voted

Detailed maps of the French presidential election show how Emmanuel Macron decisively beat right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen.

OPEN INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC

Ms. Le Pen, 48, conceded the election not long after polls closed in France, saying voters had chosen “continuity,” denying Mr. Macron his outsider status and linking him to the departing Socialists.

The vote was a record for the National Front and, she said, a mandate for it to become a new “patriotic and republican alliance” that would be “the primary opposition force against the new president.”

Ms. Le Pen earned 10.6 million votes, close to twice the number her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received when he ran a losing presidential campaign against Jacques Chirac in 2002. The 34 percent of the vote Ms. Le Pen won was the highest share the French had ever given to her party.

The election was also the first in which the National Front candidate — rather than being a pariah who was shut out of debates and kept off the front pages of major newspapers, as happened in 2002 — was treated more like a normal candidate despite the party’s anti-Semitic and racist roots.

After taking over the party leadership in 2011, Ms. Le Pen worked to distance the National Front from her father, its founder. Stéphane Ravier, a National Front senator and a close adviser to Ms. Le Pen, said the party needed to go further in remaking its identity.

“We will need to make some changes, do things differently,” he said in an interview as the returns came in. “We will have to talk about our positions on the euro with more pedagogy. We may also have to change the name of the party.”

In her concession speech, Ms. Le Pen acknowledged that the party had to “profoundly” renew itself to become a “new political force.”

Ms. Le Pen clearly failed to persuade enough voters that her party had sufficiently changed. Many of the votes Mr. Macron received on Sunday were no doubt cast less in support of him than in rejection of her. Nearly the entire political establishment spoke out against a Le Pen presidency.

Video

Marine Le Pen Concedes French Election

The far-right French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, thanked her supporters and congratulated her opponent, Emmanuel Macron, after pollsters projected that he would be the next president.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and REUTERS. Photo by Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video 

Mr. Macron formed his political movement, En Marche! (Onward!), a little more than a year ago. He was initially given a slim chance of winning in a country that has never elected a president from outside the traditional left-wing or right-wing parties, with the exception of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, a centrist who led from 1974 to 1981.

Since then, French politics has been dominated by the Socialists on the left and the Republicans (or their precursors) on the right.

Mr. Macron’s campaign benefited from canny timing and no small dose of luck, with the collapse of the governing Socialist Party under President François Hollande, the incumbent, who was so unpopular that he took the extraordinary step of not seeking re-election.

Mr. Macron was also helped by an embezzlement scandal that damaged the candidacy of the center-right candidate François Fillon, who, at the start of the campaign, seemed certain to claim the presidency.

Mr. Macron’s message — that his new movement was neither right nor left, but represented a third way, with elements of both — seemed to appeal to numerous urban voters, as well as to many young voters.

As the results appeared on a screen set up at the Louvre, Macron supporters shouted with joy. Some started singing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

“This is a historic moment,” said Jacques Pupponi, 60, who came with his children: Noé, 11; Dora, 12; and Eden, 13.

“I’ve lived moments like this before, in 1981,” he added, referring to the election of the Socialist president François Mitterrand. “I’m very happy about the score — it’s very, very important,” Mr. Pupponi said of Mr. Macron’s decisive victory.

For Mourad Djebali, 30, a Tunisian engineer who obtained French citizenship a few months ago, the result felt like a personal affirmation. “I’m moved,” Mr. Djebali said. “I recognize the France that has received me.

“It’s a great symbol of France,” he added. “It’s a sign of hope. Everyone doesn’t agree with each other, but that one thing we agree on is that we should not open the door to the extremes.”

France’s Le Pen to reform National Front, create ‘new political force’

France’s Le Pen to reform National Front, create ‘new political force’
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French right-wing National Front (FN), said that her party needs a “deep” change become a broader “patriotic” political force after she lost the presidential election to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

“The National Front… must deeply renew itself in order to rise to the historic opportunity and meet the French people’s expectations,” Le Pen said in a brief address to her supporters shortly after the first projections of the presidential elections’ results were released.

“I will propose to start this deep transformation of our movement in order to make a new political force,” she added, as cited by Reuters.

She went on to say that her result in the presidential elections is historic, despite the defeat, and added that her party would become the main opposition force to Macron. The National Front leader also said that the French political landscape is “split” between the “patriots” and the “globalists” and called on all French “patriots” to join her new political movement.

At the same time, she also said that she was immediately beginning a new election campaign for the parliamentary elections scheduled for the next few months.

Her words were echoed by other National front politicians. Florian Philippot, the party’s deputy president, called Le Pen’s result in the presidential elections “unprecedented” and praised her election campaign.

He also said that the National Front would oppose Macron. At the same time, he admitted that the party needs to change and he said that the new political movement would not be called the National Front. Philippot also called Macron’s success “a victory for the financial oligarchy” in an interview to TF1 TV channel.

In the meantime, National Front founder and Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie le Pen, said that his daughter’s position on the euro and pensions had harmed her campaign. He also accused Philippot, who was one of le Pen’s major advisors, of being responsible for Marine Le Pen’s defeat.

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Emmanuel Macron wins French presidential election over rival Marine Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron, the centrist and political newcomer, on Sunday beat the far-right Marine Le Pen to win the French presidential election.

In a contest that put the passionately pro-European Macron against Le Pen, who promised a “Frexit” referendum should she win the election, Macron garnered 65.5 percent of the vote, according to the Kantar exit poll.

The news of Macron’s win was met by cheering crowds waving French flags outside the Louvre museum.

The result, if confirmed, signals a rejection of the “French-first nationalism of Le Pen, who was labeled “France’s Trump” and was hopeful the same populist wave that led Donald Trump to the White House would also carry her to the Elysee Palace.

Macron’s victory will mark the third time in six months — following elections in Austria and the Netherlands — that European voters have shot down far-right populists who want to restore borders across Europe. The victory of a candidate — Macron — who championed European unity could strengthen the EU’s hand in its complex divorce proceedings with Britain, which voted last year to leave the bloc.

Many French voters reluctantly backed Macron; they are not staunch supporters of his politics, but wanted to keep out Le Pen and her far-right National Front party, which is still tainted by its anti-Semitic and racist history.

After the most closely watched and unpredictable French presidential campaign in recent memory, many voters rejected the choice altogether: Pollsters projected that voters cast blank or spoiled ballots in record numbers Sunday — a protest of both candidates.

At 39, Macron would become France’s youngest-ever president — and one of its most unlikely.

Unknown to voters before his turbulent 2014-16 tenure as a pro-business economy minister, Macron took a giant gamble by quitting the government of outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande to run his first-ever electoral campaign as an independent.

FRANCE ELECTION: MEDIA WARNED NOT TO PUBLISH HACKED MACRON EMAILS

His startup political movement — optimistically named, “En Marche!,” or “Forward!” — caught fire in just one year, harnessing voters’ hunger for new faces and new ideas and steering France into unchartered political territory.

In a first for postwar France, neither of the mainstream parties on the left or the right qualified in the first round of voting on April 23 for Sunday’s winner-takes-all duel between Macron and Le Pen.

Despite her projected loss, Le Pen’s advancement to the runoff for
the first time marked a breakthrough for the 48-year-old. She placed third in 2012, underscoring a growing acceptance for her fierce anti-immigration, France-first nationalism among disgruntled voters.

The candidates’ polar-opposite visions presented the 47 million registered voters with the starkest possible choice. Le Pen’s closed borders faced off against Macron’s open ones; his commitment to free trade ran against her proposals to protect the French from global economic competition and immigration. Her desire to free
France from the EU and the shared euro currency contrasted with his argument that both are essential for the future of Europe’s third-largest economy.

As well as capitalizing on voter rejection of the left-right

monopoly on power, Macron also got lucky.

One of his most dangerous opponents, conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, was hobbled by allegations that his family benefited from cushy taxpayer-funded jobs for years. On the left, the Socialist Party imploded, its candidate abandoned by voters who wanted to punish Hollande, France’s most unpopular president since World War II. Hollande himself realized he was unelectable and decided not to run again.

In power, Macron would take charge of a nation that, when Britain leaves the EU in 2019, will become the EU’s only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

He has promised a France that would stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin but that also would seek to work with the Russian leader on what he says will be one of his top priorities: fighting the Islamic State group, whose extremists have claimed or
inspired multiple attacks in France since 2015.

France has been in a state of emergency since then and 50,000 security forces were used to safeguard Sunday’s vote.

The polls opened in mainland France at 8 a.m. local time under the watch of 50,000 security forces guarding against possible extremist attacks. Polling agency projections and initial official results are expected as soon as the final stations close at 8 p.m.

Voter turnout in the runoff election is above 65 percent in late afternoon, a sharp drop of more than 6 percent compared to the last presidential vote. The Interior Ministry announced the turnout had reached 65.3 percent, compared to 71.96 percent in the second round of presidential voting in 2012.

Pre-election polls had suggested Macron was the favorite by a large margin, leading Le Pen by about 60 percent to 40 percent.

Police had to evacuate the Louvre courtyard early Sunday because of a suspicious bag, but later reopened the area. Eric Kadio told the Associated Press he came to the park near the Louvre in hopes of seeing Macron, who’s expected to speak to supporters from the Louvre courtyard after election results come in.

“France has an efficient security operation,” he told the AP. “I am not afraid. Bomb scares are frequent and each time they get things under control.”

Earlier in the day, Macron voted in the seaside resort of Le Touquet in northern France alongside his wife, Brigitte Macron. Le Pen cast her ballot just a hundred kilometers away in Henin-Beaumont, a small town controlled by her National Front party.

Fears of outside meddling hung over the race after France’s election campaign commission said Saturday that “a significant amount of data” — and some fake information — was leaked on social networks following the hacking attack on Macron.

FRENCH ELECTION: COMMISSION PROBES MACRON HACKING AS VOTERS PREPARE TO HAVE THEIR SAY

The leaked documents appeared largely mundane, and the perpetrators remain unknown. It’s unclear whether the document dump will dent the large polling lead Macron held over Le Pen going into the vote.

The commission urged French media and citizens not to relay the leaked documents. French electoral laws impose a weekend news blackout on any campaigning and media coverage seen as swaying the election. Le Pen’s campaign could not formally respond due to the blackout.

The Macron team asked the campaign oversight commission to bring in France’s top cybersecurity agency ANSSI to study the hack, a government official told the AP.

ANSSI can only be called in to investigate cyberattacks that are “massive and sophisticated” — and the Macron hack appears to fit the bill, the official said.

The documents leaked Friday were widely circulated on far-right sites based in the United States. Experts dissecting the data said they spotted a couple of Russian names in the dump.

Read more from SkyNews.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

France’s Macron, Le Pen face off in final TV showdown

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has accused her centrist rival of being the “candidate of the elite.” But Emmanuel Macron hit back in a TV debate, insisting his challenger offered no new policies.

Frankreich Wahl TV-Debatte - Marine Le Pen & Emmanuel Macron (Getty Images/AFP/E. Feferberg)

The two rivals for the second round of France’s presidential election launched personal insults and attacked each other’s manifestos on Wednesday evening as they faced off in the final TV debate ahead of Sunday’s vote.

During the high-stakes duel, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen hit out at her centrist opponent Emmanuel Macron’s record as a former economy minister, accusing him of playing a key role in selling off several of France’s state-led companies.

“That’s what you do best, break up companies and do M&A (mergers and acquisitions),” Le Pen told her contender, insisting he had acted against the interests of France.

Instead, Le Pen promised to create a sovereign wealth fund to prevent what she said were foreign “vultures” from taking over French companies.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

3 thoughts after 75 minutes of : 1. @EmmanuelMacron well prepared, 2. Moderators can go home, 3. @MLP_officiel “defends France”

‘Le liar’

In response, Macron accused the National Front candidate of misleading voters about his record, of having no experience in economic issues and no workable ideas.

“Your strategy is to tell lots of lies, you don’t propose anything,” he responded, adding, “You play with fear,” in reference to her party’s anti-immigration stance.

Macron repeated his vow to lower taxes for workers, and allow self-employed people – who are currently excluded from France’s generous unemployment scheme – to benefit, if they go bankrupt.

Le Pen stuck to her main campaign message, telling an estimated 20 million viewers: “I’m the candidate of the people, who protects our jobs, our security, from external competition and from the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.” She insisted Macron was the “candidate of the elite.”

Infografik Frankreich: Mit diesen Forderungen treten die Kanditaten an Englisch

From EU to eurozone

Le Pen said that central banks and businesses could decide whether they wanted to continue to use the euro for payments, but French citizens would have the franc in their wallets. She said it would resemble the system used before the introduction of euro banknotes.

Vous proposez de sortir de l’euro : c’est un projet mortifère et dangereux.

But Macron hit back saying the euro before the introduction of banknotes was used as a reference currency, but payments had been made in national currencies.

The former economy minister said that if France left the eurozone, French citizens would lose up to one-third of their savings since the franc would have to be devalued upon the re-introduction of France’s former national currency. Macron added that it would in effect make France less competitive since countries such as Germany would still be using the euro.

Former banker Macron hit out at what he said was Le Pen’s negative picture of France’s future in a globalized world, saying that voters don’t want her “spirit of defeatism.” He promised instead to create investment opportunities that would create jobs.

The centrist candidate has promised to carry out sweeping reforms of France’s public services, while Le Pen has threatened to pull France out of the euro and hold a referendum on its future membership of the European Union.

Frankreich Wahl TV-Debatte - Marine Le Pen & Emmanuel Macron (Getty Images/AFP/E. Feferberg)Wednesday’s crucial pre-election TV debate was watched by an estimated 20 million people

The two contenders even argued over France’s contribution to the EU, with Le Pen saying France would save 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) if it left the bloc, while Macron insisted France’s net annual contribution was actually 6 billion euros.

He warned that, like Britain, France may face a divorce bill of 60-80 billion euros if voters decided to withdraw their membership of the EU.

Wednesday’s debate was the two rivals’ final face-to-face encounter before Sunday’s second round vote to pick a replacement for Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is not seeking a second term.

Macron still leads polls

Macron has maintained a 20 percentage point lead over far-right candidate Le Pen, but some analysts believe he may not automatically receive votes from supporters of some of the losing candidates from the first round election.

Many supporters of leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon have vowed to abstain or spoil their ballot.

Since the first round vote on April 23, Le Pen has attempted to soften her image to broaden her appeal to undecided voters. She also temporarily stepped down as leader of the National Front but is still backed by her former party.

Le Pen reaching the run-off has echoes of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s surprise first round victory in 2002, which pitted him against center-right incumbent Jacques Chirac.

His daughter is likely to win more than the almost 18 percent support he picked up after Chirac refused to face the then National Front leader in a live TV debate.

A Cevipof poll published on the website of Le Monde on Wednesday saw Macron getting 59 percent of votes in the run-off versus 41 percent for Le Pen.

ls,mm/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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EU Parliament lost 5 million euros in Le Pen alleged jobs fraud, legal source says

Misuse of funds by Marine Le Pen’s party may have cost the European Parliament more than twice as much as estimated, a source has said. It’s just one of the charges leveled against the French presidential candidate.

Marine Le Pen

A French legal source said Thursday that the EU Parliament has accused Marine Le Pen of using funds meant for European parliamentary assistants to pay staff for party work in France between 2012 and 2017, while still leader of the far-right National Front (FN).

The allegations, which Le Pen has denied, triggered an investigation in France.

The parliament had initially estimated the amount of the contested salaries to be 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million) but now believes the FN wrongfully spent 4,978,122 euros, the source said, quoting a note to French investigators from the parliament’s legal team.

Patrick Maisonneuve, a lawyer for the parliament, confirmed the amount to French news agency AFP.

Read: European Parliament takes first step to lifting Le Pen’s immunity over misused funds

Read: France’s election and the EU

‘Fictional’ work contracts

The parliament believes 17 FN lawmakers in the European Parliament, including Le Pen, used European money to pay assistants for work outside the assembly.

Watch video02:11

LePen steps down as FN leader

Le Pen, specifically, is accused of paying her bodyguard, Thierry Legier, and her chief of staff, Catherine Griset, with EU parliamentary funds. Le Pen is believed to have submitted a “fictional” work contract before the European Parliament presenting Legier as an assistant, while Griset was living near Paris and working on behalf of the FN in France rather than at the European assembly.

Both were questioned by investigators in February, although only Griset was charged with concealment.

Parliamentary immunity to be lifted

The European Parliament on Wednesday formally began the procedure of lifting Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity over allegations, enabling prosecutors to investigate the case.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told lawmakers in Brussels that the request “has been forwarded to the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, which is in charge of these issues.”

Watch video03:49

@dwnews – French voters take to social media to show disregard from election results

Le Pen, who will go head to head against centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 presidential election, has denounced legal proceedings against her as a “bare-faced lie.”

Read: Le Pen vs. Macron – Where they stand

Punishment for separate case

The European Parliament has already sanctioned Le Pen for allegedly misusing nearly 340,000 euros of EU funds during the 2011-2012 legislature.

Since February the far-right nationalist’s monthly salary as an MEP has been cut by half to around 3,000 euros and other allowances have been withdrawn. The current investigation aims at establishing whether other sanctions are warranted.

Last month, Le Pen was also stripped of her parliamentary immunity in a separate case, allowing a Paris court to prosecute her for posting images of “Islamic State” (IS) brutality on Twitter in 2015. In France, the offense can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($79,567).

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Russian politicians see Le Pen as a ‘hope for change’ but expect Macron victory

Following Francois Fillon’s defeat in the first round of the French presidential race, Moscow is taking a close look at the two candidates left. Among many Kremlin politicians, Marine Le Pen is the new preferred choice.

Frankreich Präsidentschaftswahl Macron und Le Pen (Reuters/C. Hartmann)

With conservative Francois Fillon finishing third in Sunday’s first round vote, the Kremlin lost its favored French presidential candidate. While centrist Emmanuel Macron is now largely seen by Russian politicians and experts as the most likely to win the run-off election on May 7, they suggested that as a president he won’t help to solve France’s political woes.

For the Kremlin, Fillon’s election defeat is not good news. Among France’s four main presidential candidates, he pursued the closest ties with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. The two politicians have been on friendly terms since they both served as prime ministers between 2007 and 2012.

Frankreich Wahl Francois Fillon Rede in Paris nach der Niederlage (Reuters/C. Hartmann)Many saw Fillon as Moscow’s preferred candidate

During that time, Putin and Fillon spent many hours in negotiations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last year. “They indeed keep friendly relations,” he added. Speaking of his former colleague, Putin himself described the Republican candidate as a “tough negotiator” and “without any doubt a highly professional and decent person.”

During the election campaign, Fillon demonstrated his friendly leanings toward Moscow, calling the Western sanctions against Russia “totally ineffective.” Speaking of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, he repeatedly cited the right to “self-determination.”

Macron wary of Russia  

In contrast to Fillon, front-runner Emmanuel Macron is the most unfavorable candidate for Moscow. Although intending to maintain dialogue with Russia, the 39-year old politician urged the European Union to take a hard line on any possible interference in the election process in Europe, “Bloomberg” reported in February, citing an unidentified official from his campaign.

The report came a day after Macron’s campaign chief Richard Ferrand accused Russia of carrying out cyberattacks on the campaign’s computer network. He also accused Moscow of using fake news in an effort to discredit Macron ahead of the election.

Watch video02:47

Macron and Le Pen in French runoff

The former economy minster won almost 24 percent of the vote in the first round on Sunday, closely followed by right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, who garnered 21.3 percent. For Russia, this outcome hardly came as a surprise, with some politicians and political analysts in Moscow suggesting that Le Pen is unlikely to beat Macron in the second round. “It is obvious that the Western world will do anything to prevent Le Pen from gaining the presidential seat,” The State Duma deputy with ruling United Russia party, Sergei Zheleznyak, told reporters on Monday. “They don’t need a president of France, who advocates the independence and sovereignty of his country, preserving national identity and traditional values, who is ready for a dialogue and equal cooperation with other countries and opposes the sanctions policy,” he added, apparently referring to the Western establishment.

During her visit to Moscow in late March when she met Vladimir Putin, Le Pen pointed out that she is “in favor of developing relations with Russia” and called for cooperation with Moscow in the fight against terrorism. In 2014, her party, the National Front, received a 9 million euro ($9.8 million) loan from a Russian bank after French financial institutions denied it a credit.

Clinton and Trump in the French manner

Deputy chairman of Russia’s Communist Party Ivan Melnikov pointed out that Le Pen and the two leading presidential candidates who hadn’t made it to the second round – Francois Fillon and leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon got roughly 60 percent of the votes in total. “These are the candidates who declared a course for cooperation with Russia. Mr. Macron must consider that now,” the Russian politician said.

USA | Ende der 3. Präsidentschaftsdebatte 2016 in Las Vegas (REUTERS/M. Blake)The US and French elections – can parallels be drawn?

Meanwhile, State Duma deputy Zheleznyak suggested that the close first round finish between Macron and Le Pen created intrigue for the runoff in May. The head of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, compared France’s upcoming vote with the recent presidential election in the United States, which saw Hillary Clinton defeated by Donald Trump. In France, just like in the US, “hopeless tenacity in preserving the previous policy on the one hand will compete with hope for change on the other,” Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page. The only difference is that in the US “hopelessness was female,” he added, referring to Clinton, “and here it’s vice versa.”

The politician also added that the likely outcome – a Macron victory – will not solve France’s problems, but only postpone them. Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow, echoed this thought. In an interview with news agency Interfax he said he doesn’t believe that as a new president Macron could lead the country out of political and economic crisis. “It looks like he is a product of a political combination of circumstances rather than a representative of any distinct political program,” Lukyanov  said, referring to the French politician. “If so,” he added, “the situation might only get worse in the future, and then the new political reality will not be better than the old one.”

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Macron leads in polls as France prepares to vote in runoff elections

Emmanuel Macron’s supporters appeared confident after his victory in the first round of the French presidential elections. But his opponent, far-right Marine Le Pen, is trailing less than 1 million votes behind him.

Frankreich Wahl Macron Jubel (Reuters/B. Tessier)

The final results from the first round of France’s presidential election’s showed that centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron got almost 1 million more votes than far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Both candidates will now be advancing to a runoff scheduled on May 7.

The 39-year-old candidate is the projected winner in most polls, as initial opinion polls show Le Pen to be 24 to 28 percentage points behind Macron. The Elabe poll says that 64 percent of voters will favor Emmanuel Macron on May 7, while a projection by Ifop Fiducial gave Macron 60 percent of the share.

Narrow but solid win for Macron

Watch video02:47

Macron and Le Pen in French runoff

Emmanuel Macron collected 24.01 percent in Sunday’s first round of elections, while Le Pen garnered or 21.30 percent of the vote, according to the official final count published by the French Interior Ministry.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01 percent, while left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon received 19.58 percent of the vote. Seven other candidates were left far behind.

The turnout at the polls was 77.77 percent – the lowest in a French presidential election for 15 years.

Le Pen distances herself from her party

Sunday’s vote was the best result ever achieved by the anti-EU and anti-immigration Front National (FN) party, headed by Marine Le Pen. In preparation for the May 7 runoff, Le Pen announced that she would be temporarily stepping down as head of the movement.

“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” she said on French public television and also in a tweet.

“Je me mets en congé de la présidence du @FN_officiel : je ne suis plus que la candidate à la présidentielle.”

The move appears to be intended to attract a wider range of voters at the runoff elections who may not necessarily identify with the FN but may feel attracted to some of Le Pen’s populist rhetoric. Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and that the views she was advocating were her own.

French leaders back Macron

Meanwhile Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist candidate who came in first in Sunday’s first round or elections, attracted supported from many of his erstwhile rivals. Incumbent French President Francois Hollande urged voters to choose Emmanuel Macron in the presidential runoff to keep far-right leader Marine Le Pen out. He said on Twitter that he would be casting his vote for the independent candidate.

La mobilisation s’impose mais aussi la clarté des choix. Je voterai @EmmanuelMacron.

Macron was Hollande’s top economic adviser between 2012 and 2014, serving as economy minister in his Socialist government thereafter.

Former French conservative candidate Francois Fillon meanwhile announced that he would vote for Macron in the May 7 runoff to try to prevent Le Pen from winning the race. Fillon had been eliminated from the presidential race finishing third on Sunday, behind Macron and Le Pen. Fillon added that he won’t lead his party into June’s parliamentary election in France, saying he had lost his legitimacy as party leader.

Growing support for Macron across EU

The president of the European Parliament has joined calls by various EU leaders who endorsed Macron in the presidential race. Antonio Tajani said he believed far-right candidate Marine Le Pen would lose on May 7, and called on the French public to defend the values of the European Union.

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, wrote on Twitter that to “see the flags of France and the EU welcome the result of Emmanuel Macron is the hope and future of our generation.”

Voir les drapeaux de la et de l’ saluer le résultat de @emmanuelmacron, c’est l’espoir et le futur de notre génération

A number of German lawmakers had earlier commented on Emmanuel Macron’s victory at the first stage of the French elections.

Watch video00:42

Germany’s foreign minister has welcomed the success of Emmanuel Macron

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed Macron’s win, and voiced confidence that he would succeed his former party leader, Francois Hollande, as the next president of France, saying that he had the “strongest showing of all candidates.”

“In France, this is about France, of course. But it’s also about Europe and I’m particularly pleased that Macron won in this round because he was the only truly pro-European candidate,” Gabriel commented.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wrote on Twitter: “Good that Emmauel Macron has been successful with his firm course for a strong EU and a social market economy.”

Gut, dass @EmmanuelMacron mit seinem Kurs für eine starke EU + soziale Marktwirtschaft Erfolg hatte. Alles Gute für die nächsten 2 Wochen.

Macron’s win in the first round of elections also gave a major boost to financial markets across Europe. Germany’s DAX share index hit a record as investors were confident about the outlook of the elections and relieved about the initial outcome. The Paris CAC 40 index meanwhile shot up 4.1 percent. London’s FTSE 100 also made gains of 1.4 percent, while Madrid’s IBEX 35 index rose by 3.5 percent.

Only Russia appeared to side with Marine Le Pen, saying that she might provide “hope for change” in Moscow’s view, while Macron is viewed as the least favorable candidate for the Kremlin.

ss/bw (AP, AFP, dpa)

 

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