Rumors of Alleged Russian Interference in French Election 'Nonsense'

Election graphic: * Decision Europe Eikon page: cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?navid=72745 PARIS, April 24 (Reuters) - Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to face off in second-round vote on May 7.

French centrist Emmanuel Macron is set to be elected president in a May 7 runoff with almost two thirds of the vote, said two polls conducted on Sunday, after early projections indicated he had qualified along with far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Inside Macron's daring run for the Elysee > EU has no "Plan B' if French voters deliver upset > En garde!"

Macron, a former banker and economy minister, won 23.7 per cent of votes in yesterday's first round, slightly ahead of National Front (FN) leader Le Pen with 21.9 per cent, according to near-final results from the interior ministry. Which duel for the presidency?

The French vote was being closely watched as a bellwether for populist sentiment following the election of Donald Trump as United States president and Britain's vote to leave the EU.

Mathilde Jullien, 23, said she is convinced Mr Macron will be able to win over Ms Le Pen and become France's next president.

Le Pen took the stage Sunday night, with a France-first message, and said she would "liberate the French people" and fight against the "wild type of globalization" that would include "no borders" and the "free circulation of terrorists".

While Macron wants to further beef up the euro zone, Le Pen has told supporters "the European Union will die".

He also cited the history of "violence and intolerance" of Ms Le Pen's far-right National Front party.

Le Pen or Melenchon would struggle, in parliamentary elections in June, to win a majority to carry out such radical moves, but their growing popularity worries both investors and France's European Union partners.

Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, who was far behind in Sunday's results, quickly conceded defeat. They burst into a rendition of the French national anthem, and waved French flags and blue flags with "Marine President" inscribed on them.

By contrast, Le Pen called her second-place finish an "historic result" and urged "all patriots" to back her party in next month's runoff.

Le Pen has downplayed the risks, accusing sceptical rivals and economists of scaremongering.

For Americans, Duhamel said it would have been the equivalent of Ross Perot beating then-incumbent U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Democratic nominee Bill Clinton in the 1992 election.

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