Macron to Face Le Pen in French Election Run Off

Incumbent Emmanuel Macron and conservative firebrand Marine Le Pen have set the stage for a head-to-head battle to determine the French presidency, later this month, after emerging as the leaders from Sunday’s first round.

Macron was in the lead with 27.60% of the vote, followed by Le Pen on 23.41%, the French Interior Ministry announced after counting 97% of the ballots. Third place went to Socialist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who secured 21.95%, according to official figures.

The second round on April 24 will be a repeat of the 2017 runoff, in which Macron came out on top.

Polls suggest the incumbent president is a slight favorite again. According to a survey by Ipsos-Sopra Steria, 54% percent of voters were expected to back Macron in the second round. A YouGov and Datapraxis poll suggested a tighter margin, with him beating Le Pen by 51% to 49%.

France’s election system requires a candidate to win a majority of votes to secure the presidency without a runoff – a tall order when there’s a crowded field, such as this year’s 12-person race. The top two vote-getters are now set to square off on April 24.

The runoff will likely feature a different dynamic than the preliminary stage, as was demonstrated in France’s last presidential election. In the 2017 race, Le Pen trailed Macron by just under three percentage points in the first round, but was then trounced by a 66-34 margin in the runoff, when most supporters of the other contenders consolidated behind Macron, the establishment candidate.

Several of Sunday’s also-rans have reportedly thrown their support behind Macron. Candidates Valerie Pecresse, Anne Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot and Fabien Roussel – who combined to win about 14% of first-round votes –  said they will endorse Macron to block the “far right” from winning the presidency. Zemmour, meanwhile, is backing Le Pen.

However, far-left voters aren’t expected to support Macron to the same degree as they did in the 2017 runoff. In fact, an Atlas Politico poll conducted last week showed that Le Pen had overtaken Macron, by a margin of 50.5% to 49.5%, in the head-to-head race. The incumbent was favored by wide margins in head-to-head polling against the three other leading candidates.

“We will win, we will win,” Le Pen told her cheering supporters on Sunday. She called the runoff a “choice of civilization,” saying she would campaign on making France more independent and protecting the weak.

Western mainstream media outlets have tried to shape the contest as a referendum on the Ukraine crisis, portraying Le Pen as a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s military offensive against Kiev. One US outlet, the Daily Beast, called her a “fascist” and a “Putin fangirl.”

However, that strategy was unsuccessful in last week’s elections in Hungary and Serbia, where incumbent leaders won handily despite being vilified for being insufficiently supportive of Ukraine.

You can read this article as it originally appears at RT here.

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