Finance

Macron wins first round of French presidential election

Macron wins first round of French presidential election

Or they could choose poll-leading, center-left Emmanuel Macron - a 39-year-old former Socialist Party leader who, despite his youth, is already a fixture of the country's political establishment.

Le Pen and her far-right populist politics were a hit at the polls today.

Laure Granval, a 26-year-old fashion designer, said she felt France had taken a wrong turn in recent years.

At the exhibition center in western Paris where Macron's supporters gathered for the results, a crowd of several hundred people, a lot of them young, waved French flags, a signal that the National Front doesn't have a monopoly on patriotism.

Mr Macron supporter Mathilde Julien said "he represents France's future, a future within Europe".

Meanwhile at the base of Mr Fillon in Paris, silence and disappointed sighs rose up as the projections appeared on TV screens.

The candidate for the governing Socialists, Benoit Hamon, was a distant fifth going into Sunday's vote. Proclaiming that "the left is not dead", he also urged supporters to back Macron.

Jean Edouard, a taxi driver, told Al Jazeera that he was supporting Macron out of fear of both Le Pen and Melenchon.

Almost 47 million voters will decide, under tight security, whether to back a pro-EU centrist newcomer, a scandal-ridden veteran conservative who wants to slash public spending, a far-left eurosceptic admirer of Fidel Castro or appoint France's first woman president, to shut borders and ditch the euro.

At midday, turnout on a bright spring day was up slightly compared with the same time in 2012 - when a total 79.48 percent of the electorate cast ballots - seemingly defying forecasts of a record low participation rate. This is a contentious election that resulted in violence on the streets of Paris.

Julie Bishop throws some serious, sassy-as-hell shade at North Korea
Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a USA citizen on Saturday, bringing the number of Americans being held there to three.

The French interior ministry has announced a deployment of around 50,000 police officers and 7,000 soldiers across the country to safeguard the election, which has been in the shadow of security threats in the final run-up.

Analysts and voters interviewed see this as the most unpredictable election since World War II.

They defeated nine other candidates to advance to the next round of voting on May 7.

It sets up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.

The two saw off a strong challenge from centre-right François Fillon the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, according to the projections.

For the 47 million registered voters in France, the decision seems particularly hard to make this year.

"If it were to benefit someone, that would clearly be Marine Le Pen who has dominated this issue throughout the campaign, or Francois Fillon", said Adelaide Zulfikarpasic of the BVA polling institute. Melenchon says that's a possibility if he can't renegotiate France's role in a bloc blamed for myriad economic and security woes.

Macron and Fillon are committed to European unity and would reform the country's restrictive labor rules. "If Le Pen wins, protectionism may further rise in France, which is not good for China".

She cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, a former coal mining town in northern France that has an FN mayor.


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