French presidential election: macron and le pen to context run off |nigeria news today headlines update today

French presidential election: macron and le pen to context run off

Politics World

French polling agencies projected Sunday that incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen are heading for another winner-takes-all runoff in the French presidential election, with their fierce political rivalry and sharply opposing visions pulling clear of a crowded field of 12 candidates in the first round of voting.

If confirmed by official vote counts expected later Sunday night, the pollsters’ initial projections mean France is teeing up for a repeat of the 2017 head-to-head contest that put Macron into power — but there is no guarantee that this time the outcome will be the same.The election’s result will will have wide international influence as Europe tries to contain the havoc wreaked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Macron has strongly backed European Union sanctions on Russia while Le Pen has worried publicly about their impact on French living standards. Macron also is a firm supporter of NATO.

Macron, a 44-year-old political centrist, won by a landslide five years ago to become France’s youngest president. But he is bracing for a far tougher runoff battle this time on April 24 against his 53-year-old political nemesis. Le Pen is promising seismic shifts for France — both domestically and internationally — if elected as the country’s first woman president, and appears closer than ever to have a chance of reaching the presidential Elysee Palace.

The projections showed both Macron and Le Pen on course to improve on their 2017 first-round showings, highlighting how French politics have increasingly become polarized. The projections showed Macron with a comfortable first-round lead of between 27%-to-29% support, ahead of Le Pen, who is expected to capture 23%-to-24% of the vote.

The projections showed hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon — one of half a dozen candidates on the left — falling short of the runoff, heading for third place.

Le Pen thanked her supporters Sunday night, saying the “French people honored me by qualifying me for the second round” on April 24. She called on those who didn’t vote for Macron in the first round to join her for the second.

Some presidential candidates who were defeated Sunday were so alarmed by the possibility of Le Pen beating Macron in the runoff that they urged their supporters to shift their second-round votes to the incumbent. Melenchon, addressing his supporters, some of them in tears, repeated three times that Le Pen shouldn’t get “one single vote.”Describing herself as “profoundly worried,” defeated conservative Valerie Pecresse warned of “the chaos that would ensue” if Le Pen is elected and said she has never been so close to power. Pecresse said she’d vote for Macron in the runoff.

Le Pen this time tapped into the foremost issue on many French voters’ minds: living costs that have soared amid the disruptions of war in Ukraine and the economic repercussions of western sanctions on Russia.

Pollsters suggest that just a few percentage points could separate the familiar foes in the second-round vote. That nail-biting scenario sets up a runoff campaign likely to be far more confrontational and volatile than during round one, which was largely overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.

Le Pen gave a little wink Sunday as she dropped the blue envelope containing her choice into a ballot box in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont. Afterward, she said “given the situation in the country and in the world,” Sunday’s election outcome could determine “not only the next five years, but probably the next 50 years” in France.

In the 27-member EU, only France has a nuclear arsenal and a U.N. Security Council veto.

Macron for months looked like a shoo-in to become France’s first president in 20 years to win a second term. But National Rally leader Le Pen ate into his polling lead in the campaign’s closing stages, as the pain of rising gas, food and energy prices became a dominant election theme for many low-income households.

To beat Le Pen in the runoff, Macron must pick apart her years-long rebranding effort to make herself seem less extreme, a makeover that has including showing off her love of cats. Macron has accused Le Pen of pushing an extremist manifesto of racist and ruinous policies. Le Pen wants to ban Muslim headscarves in French streets and halal and kosher butchers, and drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe.Her softer image won over some voters but made others even more suspicious.

Yves Maillot, a retired engineer, said he voted for Macron only to try to counterbalance Le Pen. He said he fears that her long-standing hostility to the EU could see her try to take France out of the bloc, even though she’s dropped that from her manifesto.

“I don’t think she’s changed at all,” he said. “It’s the same thing, but with cats.”

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Elaine Ganley, Sylvie Corbet and Patrick Hermansen in Paris contributed