[Breaking] French election: Macron wins first round, gears up for presidential runoff

French President Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French election and for a second time will fight far-right leader Marine Le Pen for the presidency on April 24, 2022.

“Make no mistake, nothing is decided,” he told cheering supporters.

Although he is heading for a first-round lead of almost five points, opinion polls suggest the run-off will be far closer than that.

Ms Le Pen called on every non-Macron voter to join her and “put France back in order”.

Opinion polls released on Sunday night give Mr Macron a lead as low as two points.

Veteran far-left agitator Jean-Luc Mélenchon finished narrowly behind Marine Le Pen in third and he now has the unlikely role of kingmaker.

“You must not give a single vote to Marine Le Pen,” he warned his supporters, but unlike other candidates, he did not back the president. Although Mélenchon voters could decide the election, many of them may just sit the second round out.

Although 12 candidates were in the running, they were the only three who polled more than 10% as the idea of tactical of “useful” voting took hold.

The 2022 presidential election will be partly remembered for the disaster that has befallen the two old parties that used to run France, the Republicans and Socialists. They sank almost without trace, with Socialist Anne Hidalgo falling below 2%.

It was only a few months ago that Valérie Pécresse was still in the race for the right-wing Republicans. She performed so badly her party could barely scrape the 5% needed to claim its election costs.

The battle for votes now starts in earnest. Marine Le Pen can count on supporters of Eric Zemmour, whose more hardline nationalism gave him fourth place and 7%. Nationalist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has also backed her.

Most of the other candidates on the left have backed Mr Macron, as did Valérie Pécresse, but one-time Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal said the president now had to “earn” victory.

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