French vote in most unpredictable contest in generations

Securing 23.9% and 21.4% of the votes respectively, independent centrist Macron and far-right populist Le Pen are confirmed to enter the runoff early next month to fight for presidency.

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 past year.

France's far right is reaching out to voters who backed the defeated far-left contender, hoping to peel away voters from the extremes of the political spectrum. Le Pen wants to print money to finance expanded welfare payments and tax cuts, ditch the euro currency and possibly pull out of the EU.

In contrast to Macron, Le Pen advocates for restrictive immigration positions and argues that French citizenship should either be "inherited or merited" - hardline positions that would undoubtedly keep talented workers out of France and hamstring business.

Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, made it to the second round against Jacques Chirac in 2002 and was crushed in the runoff. The poll also showed Macron edging out National Front leader Le Pen, putting him odds on favourite to become the next president of France.

National Front vice president Steeve Brios said: "The voters who voted for Mr Melenchon are angry voters".

THE QUOTE: "It seems like a "relief rebound" following the result of the French election just a few hours ago, which shows that Macron and Le Pen will go head-to-head in the final round".

Trading was extremely quiet and "liquidity wasn't helped by the fact that we are between Sunday and Anzac Day so a lot of people aren't here today", said Tim Kelleher, head of institutional foreign exchange sales at ASB Bank.

Though Macron, 39, is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, new opinion polls on Sunday saw him easily winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Le Pen.

"She's been in the political system for 30 years". Proclaiming that "the left is not dead", he also urged supporters to back Macron.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Macron "all the best for the next two weeks".

Barrick Gold Corp and its new Chinese partner presented a $500 million plan on Friday to make safety and environmental improvements to the Veladero gold mine in Argentina after a third cyanide spill in 18 months, a company executive said.

Riding a wave of disaffection with globalisation that carried Donald Trump to the White House and led Britain to vote for Brexit, Le Pen has vowed to dramatically reduce immigration, abandon the euro and hold a referendum on withdrawing from the EU.

At the post-election party at Porte de Versailles in the south of Paris, Macron supporters waved both French and European Union flags.

Manuel Valls, a former Socialist prime minister on the right-wing of the party who broke with Hamon's campaign after failing to beat him for the party ticket, said he would be ready to work with Macron. Two people were injured and police detained three people as demonstrators burned cars, danced around bonfires and dodged riot police. The candidate for the governing Socialists, Benoit Hamon, was a distant fifth going into Sunday's vote.

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