French elections in focus

French elections in focus

French elections in focus

In France, Centrist Emmanuel Macron took a big step toward the presidency on Sunday by winning the first round of voting and qualifying for the May 7 runoff alongside far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The single European currency - supported by the centre-left former economy minister and investment banker - gained 2% to $1.09 when trading began in Asia before later settling around 1.3% higher.

Francois Fillon, the scandal-plagued conservative Republicans candidate, fared marginally better, coming in third with just shy of 20 per cent of the vote.

Those figures soothed investors who have been unnerved by Le Pen's pledges to ditch the euro, print money and possibly quit the European Union, and were nervous of another anti-establishment upheaval to follow Britain's "Brexit" vote and Donald Trump's election as U.S. president.

Ms. LePen declared herself "the great alternative" for French voters and said, "The time has come to free the French people".

French voters made it clear Sunday that they were ready for change - neither candidate hails from the establishment parties that have dominated the country for decades.

Macron's internal security programme calls for 10,000 more police officers, and 15,000 new prison places.

Observers thought the attack would benefit Le Pen.

Macron led the first round of voting for president last night, with projections based on partial results showing him polling 23-24 per cent to Le Pen's 21.6-23 per cent. An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll gave a similar result while a new poll by Opinionway today put the margin at 61 percent to 39 percent.

After his first-round victory, Macron said: "I will be the president of all the people of France, the president of the patriots against the nationalists' threat".

He said a post-election dinner with friends at Paris's Rotonde brasserie - by no means a top-tier restaurant - was a flashy "bling-bling" gesture.

Le Pen will be keen to avoid a repetition of 2002, when her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, surprisingly got through to the second round, but was then humiliated by right-wing president Jacques Chirac as mainstream parties united to block a party they considered racist and anti-Semitic. Around a quarter of French young people are now unemployed- three times higher than in Germany and almost double the UK.

"Now that this has been lifted, there will be a relief rally, bolstered by how quickly the mainstream candidates... have endorsed Macron, the market's favorite".

Even if the polls are correct, Macron will likely find governing hard, as his young party will struggle to get a majority in the parliamentary elections in June, meaning he will have to work with other parties - like the United States, there are strong checks and balances in the system to prevent too much power in the hands of one individual. (Onwards!) movement has none.

Macron has already managed to enlist some 50 sitting Socialist lawmakers to his cause, as well as a number of centrist party grandees.

Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, said: 'While markets had deemed a Le Pen-Macron (run-off) as the most likely outcome, there was an element of uncertainty.

Among those failing to make the cut was Communist-backed eurosceptic Jean-Luc Melenchon, who had enjoyed a late surge ahead of the first-round vote in an election marked by widespread disillusionment with the political class.

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