Le Pen,Macron Advance to French Runoff 04/24 06:10
PARIS (AP) -- French voters shut out the political mainstream from the
presidency for the first time in modern history, and on Monday found themselves
being courted for the runoff election between populist Marine Le Pen and
centrist Emmanuel Macron.
French politicians on the moderate left and right, including the Socialist
and Republicans party losers in Sunday's vote, immediately urged voters to
block Le Pen's path to power in the May 7 contest.
Voters narrowed the presidential field from 11 to two. Both that vote and
the May 7 runoff are widely seen as a litmus test for the populist wave that
last year prompted Britain to vote to leave the European Union and America to
elect Donald Trump president.
The defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to
back Macron, and Le Pen's National Front is hoping to do the once unthinkable
and peel away voters historically opposed to a party long tainted by racism and
"The voters who voted for Mr. Melenchon are angry voters. They can be in
agreement with us," Steeve Brios, a vice president of Le Pen's National Front
party, told The Associated Press. He said they express a choice "outside the
Choosing from inside the system is no longer an option. Voters rejected the
two mainstream parties that have alternated power for decades, in favor of Le
Pen and the untested Macron , who has never held elected office and who founded
his own political movement just last year. Turnout was 78 percent, down
slightly from 79 percent in the first round of presidential voting in 2012.
Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, whose party holds a majority in the
legislature, got just 6 percent. Socialist President Francois Hollande is the
most unpopular in modern French record-keeping. He did not seek re-election.
"We are in a phase of decomposition, demolition, deconstruction," said
former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls. "We didn't do the work ---
intellectual, ideological and political --- on what the left is, and we paid
Francois Fillon, the scandal-plagued conservative Republicans candidate,
fared marginally better, coming in third with just shy of 20 percent of the
Both center-right and center-left fell in behind Macron, whose optimistic
vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders is a stark
contrast to Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls
for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared
euro currency to return to the French franc. Le Pen on Monday called her
opponent "weak" against Islamic terrorism.
European stock markets surged as investors welcomed the first-round results,
with Macron favored to win. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Macron "all
the best for the next two weeks."
Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that "the result for
Emmanuel Macron shows: France AND Europe can win together! The center is
stronger than the populists think!"
Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, made it to the second round against Jacques
Chirac in 2002 and was crushed in the runoff. Many commentators expect the same
fate for his daughter, but she has already drawn far more support than he ever
did and she has transformed the party's once-pariah image.
Chirac refused to debate Jean-Marie Le Pen on principle; Macron has already
agreed to share a stage with his daughter.
Le Pen offers an alternative for anyone skeptical of the European Union and
France's role in it, said Louis Aliot, the vice president of the National Front
"I'm not convinced that the French are willing to sign a blank check to Mr.
Macron," he said.
But Macron's party spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, said the far-right
candidate is hardly a vector of change.
"She's been in the political system for 30 years. She inherited her father's
party and we will undoubtedly have Le Pens running for the next 20 years,
because after we had the father, we have the daughter and we will doubtless
have the niece," he said. "So she is in a truly bad position to be talking
about the elites and the people."
Macron came in first in Sunday's vote, with just over 23 percent; Le Pen had
21 percent; Melenchon and Fillon each had 19 percent. Fillon, a former prime
minister, bested the former Trotskyist Melenchon by just 94,998 votes.
Protesters overnight burned cars, danced around bonfires and dodged riot
police at the Place de la Bastille and Republique. Twenty-nine people were
detained at the Bastille, where protesters waved red flags and sang "No Marine
and No Macron!" in anger at the results.