France's Presidential Election Goes Populist

Owen Stevens
April 24, 2017

Despite a strong performance from far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of France's presidential election, the bigger news was the success of Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist who rode to victory with a counter-intuitive campaign that embraced globalisation, immigration and the European Union.

Macron came in first in Sunday's vote, with just over 23 percent; Le Pen had 21 percent; Melenchon and losing conservative candidate Francois Fillon each had 19 percent.

They will contest the run-off on May 7. And I spoke with Marie Celine Terre, who's very happy that her candidate won, but here's what she said.

Macron later also greeted a cheerful crowd of supporters, saying that "in one year, we have changed the face of French political life".

Ms Le Pen declared that she embodied "the great alternative" for French voters.

France is now steaming into unchartered territory, because whoever wins on May 7 can not count on the backing of France's political mainstream parties.

Neither candidate from the mainstream Republicans and Socialists made it through to the second round for the first time in six decades in a stunning shakeup of national politics.

"[I want] to undertake a new transformation", Macron said.

Gains may be limited for the single currency as investors will start to look to the second round of the French elections on May 7, when Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen battle it out for the presidency.

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His wife, Brigitte, joined him on stage before his speech - the only couple among the leading candidates to do so Sunday night. All the Belgian media stressed that the findings, whose sources they did not disclose, were provisional and subject to change.

Schulz, formerly president of the European Parliament, said the win was also good for Germany, and that he would welcome working with Macron as French president if he himself won the chancellery. Business-friendly and pro-European Macron, who has maintained a large winning margin in head-to head polls with Le Pen, can now build on his momentum.

The final outcome of the French presidential poll is being anxiously monitored around the world as a sign of whether the populist tide that saw Britain vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's election in the United States is still rising or starting to ebb.

Macron and Le Pen will conduct a series of campaign rallies and a face-to-face television debate scheduled before the run-off. "We did it", he told jubilant supporters.

"Either we continue on the path of complete deregulation, with no borders and no protection. mass immigration and free movement of terrorists. or you choose France", she added.

He will likely defeat Far Right Nationalist candidate, Marine Le Pen. Investors had feared two euroskeptics - Le Pen and far-left Jean Luc Melenchon - would make it to the runoff vote as opinion polls had been extremely tight.

The dollar was up 0.9 percent at 110.04 yen, rising above the 110-yen level for the first time in almost two weeks.

In a brief televised message, Socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged voters to back Macron to defeat the National Front's "funereal project of regression for France and of division of the French".

Again, Macron hinted at this when he told supporters: "The challenge from tonight is not to go and vote against whoever it might be; the challenge is to decide to break completely with a system that has been incapable of dealing with our country's problems for more than 30 years".

Other reports by VgToday

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