French vote for Macron, Le Pen shuts out mainstream politics

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte leave after casting their vote in the first round of the French presidential election in le Touquet northern France Sunday

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte leave after casting their vote in the first round of the French presidential election in le Touquet northern France Sunday

Alexander Lambsdorff, a German liberal lawmaker, said Sunday's result was a victory for two protest candidates.

In a race that was too close to call up to the last minute, Macron, a pro-EU ex-banker and former economy minister who founded his own party only a year ago, had 23.54 percent of the votes against 22.33 percent for Le Pen, according to partial figures from the Interior Ministry with the bulk of votes counted.

Jean-Marie Le Pen was ultimately crushed when voters from right and left rallied around the conservative Jacques Chirac in order to keep out a party whose far-right, anti-immigrant views they considered unpalatably xenophobic.

Valls said: "We are in a phase of decomposition, demolition, deconstruction".

The defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to do the same, 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 anti-Semitism. The conservative candidate fared marginally better, coming in third with just shy of 20% of the vote.

A vice president of the European Parliament is describing Emmanuel Macron as a "French John F. Kennedy" and says his first-round victory is good news for Europe. However, the votes Le Pen got were even lower than the recent polls of 23%, indicating the probability of her presidency is lower than expectations.

European stock markets surged on the open as investors welcomed the first-round results, with Macron favored to win. "The center is stronger than the populists think!"

French vote for president in litmus test for Europe's future

The second round will come down to a battle between the pro-European, pro-globalisation vision of Macron and Le Pen's hostility to the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"He criticized French culture", Florian Philippot, deputy leader of Le Pen's National Front told BFM TV, saying she and Macron held completely different visions of France.

Mr Macron still faces a challenge convincing some voters he has the experience and clout to become president.

"The expected political natural disaster has taken place", agreed the Tages Anzeiger, saying the result shows the "annoyance of the French electorate with established politics and their dissatisfaction with economic and social conditions".

They said they had detained 29 people in the unrest between protesters and police at the Place de la Bastille in Paris.

Defeated Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, Socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and defeated right-wing candidate Francois Fillon all urged voters to rally behind Macron in the second round.

To take note of, in Paris the vote count now shows that Macron trounced Le Pen, winning 35% of the vote, versus less than 5% for the candidate from the Front Nationale.

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