39-year-old Macron set to emerge French president, to face Le Pen in runoff

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French voters have chosen Emmanuel Macron, generally considered a political novice, over some of the country’s more established candidates in Sunday’s presidential election.

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron

Results from first round of voting indicate that Mr. Macron, an independent candidate, scored 23.75 per cent of total votes cast, putting him in a comfortable position for a second round poll against far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, who scored 21.53 per cent of the votes to come second.

The historic election is a clear indication of voters’ disillusionment with some of the country’s traditional political parties that have ruled France for decades. Ms. Le Pen is also considered to a non-establishment candidate, although with far-right views.

Mr. Macron, 39, a former investment banker, has never stood for an elective office before. By virtue of his first round victory, he is now a clear favourite to be elected France’s next president. If he is elected in the May 7, 2017 runoff, he would be France’s youngest president ever.

He was economy minister to incumbent president, Francois Hollande, but is not a socialist like his former boss. He resigned from the government in 2016 and launched a political movement tagged, En Marche! (on the move) promising to “revolutionise” France’s political system.

“We did it,” he told his jubilant supporters in Paris after the results were announced. “In one year, we have changed the face of French political life.”

He said he represented “optimism and hope.”

In a clear swipe at his closes rival, Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Macron said would be a president of “patriots” against the “nationalist threat”.

The election was not exactly a defeat for Ms. Le Pen, who has raised the profile of the National Front since she took over its leadership from her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, in 2011.

Ms. Le Pen had campaigned against immigration and vowed to crack down on Islamic fundamentalism.

“It is time to free French people from arrogant elites … I am the people’s candidate,” she said in the final days of the campaign.

“The French people must seize this opportunity, because the enormous challenge of this election is the wild globalization that puts our civilization at risk,” Ms. Le Pen said to her supporters in Paris after the result was announced.

“Either we continue to disintegrate without any borders, without any controls, unfair international competition, mass immigration and the free circulation of terrorists, or you choose France with borders,” she added.

Former prime minister and one-time favourite, Francois Fillon, trailed in third place. His chances were destroyed by a corruption scandal.

Although the eventual president will not emerge until after the May 7 run-off, majority of the supporters of other candidates are expected to support Mr. Macron who is polled to defeat Ms. Le Pen by a wide margin.

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