French incumbent Emmanuel Macron will face off against far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the deciding vote of the country’s general election, after the pair topped voting in the first round.
Macron topped the polls in the first round with 27.6% of the vote, with Le Pen in second place with 23.4%. Under the French electoral system if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round then the two most popular candidates are pitted against each other in a second round of voting.
Radical left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in third place with 21.95%.
Macron’s vote share is higher than he achieved in the first round five years ago on his way to the presidency, but Le Pen’s total is also higher than in 2017. All candidates now eliminated, with the exception of far-right TV pundit Éric Zemmour, have called for voters to support Macron in order to keep Le Pen out of power.
The cost of living crisis has dominated this election, with commentators attributing the success of both Le Pen and Mélenchon to voters’ habit of seeking out more radical options in testing times. Le Pen in particular has hit home with a campaign focused on the cost of living crisis and inflation.
The remaining two candidates will now campaign for a further two weeks, before the deciding vote on April 24th. The showdown will be a re-run of the 2017 election, a campaign mired in bad blood on both sides.
The deciding vote five years ago was a pretty one-sided affair, with Macron taking office after receiving 66% of the vote. Analysts predict that this year’s contest will be a lot closer, with polls released in the last week suggesting Le Pen could gain as much as 49% of the vote.
Macron was keen to point out that his re-election was far from a foregone conclusion. “Don’t be mistaken, nothing is decided, and the debate we’ll have in the next two weeks will be decisive for our country and for Europe” he told supporters.