French leader Emmanuel Macron and right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen qualified on Sunday for what promises to be a very tightly fought presidential election runoff – set for April 24.
Macron has accused Le Pen of pushing an extremist manifesto of racist, ruinous policies. “Nothing is decided, and the battle we will wage in the next 15 days will be decisive for France and Europe,” Macron told supporters, urging all voters to rally behind him to stop the far-right from ruling the European Union’s second-largest economy.
Meanwhile, Le Pen said that she will ‘bring order back to France’ during a recent election rally. “What will be at stake on April 24 is a choice of society, a choice of civilisation,” she told supporters.
Here’s what we know so far about the French Elections:
1. Macron vs Le Pen
Incumbent Emmanuel Macron will face far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in a winner-takes-all runoff for the French presidency, after they both advanced Sunday in the first round of voting.
2. Macron leads the race
Macron won their last contest in 2017 by a landslide to become France’s youngest-ever president. Sunday’s results put Macron in the first place ahead of Le Pen after the first-round voting, while other major candidates admitted defeat. With 96 per cent of the votes counted for Sunday’s first round, Macron garnered 27.41 per cent of the votes and Le Pen 24 per cent as per news agency Reuters.
3. What’s working for Macron
Macron seemed on course for a comfortable re-election, riding high in polls thanks to strong economic growth, a fragmented opposition and his statesman role in trying to avert war in Ukraine on Europe’s eastern flank.
4. Where does Le Pen stand
Le Pen, an open admirer of Russian President Putin until his invasion of Ukraine, had for months toured towns and villages across France.
She focused on cost-of-living issues troubling millions and tapped into anger toward rulers.Her years-long effort to rebrand herself as more pragmatic and less extreme will play a crucial role in the outcome of the elections, news agency AP reported.
5. International Impact
The election outcome will have wide international influence as Europe struggles to contain the havoc wreaked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Macron has strongly backed the European Union sanctions on Russia. “As Europeans, we are adopting new sanctions. And we will continue providing humanitarian, military and financial support to Ukraine,” Macron said.
Meanwhile, Le Pen has reportedly expressed worries about the impact on French living standards from these sanctions.
Le Pen in the past also had ambitions for a Britain-like “Frexit” of France from the EU, Reuters reported. “Le Pen wants to roll back some rights for Muslims, banning them from wearing headscarves in public, and to drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe,” news agency AP said.
(With Reuters and AP inputs)