The most hotly contested and divisive French presidential election in recent history seem to have ended exactly as the polls predicted and centrist Emmanuel Macron will be facing off against the extremist right-wing Marine Le Pen in next month’s runoff. Although official numbers have yet to be released, projected results estimate Macron will receive 24 percent of the vote compared, to Le Pen’s 22 percent. That means the two non-traditional candidates beat the center-right’s François Fillon and the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who are disputing the third place.
Assuming the result holds, it would be a historic day in France and mark the first time the two political parties that have dominated French politics since World War II don’t make it to the presidential runoff. The Macron-Le Pen face-off also sets up a clear choice for French voters in deciding whether they want to go down a nationalist, Brexit-style path or one that continues to emphasize the country’s international alliances. Le Pen has made no secret that she wants France to get out of the European Union in a move that many have said could be the final, deadly blow to the 28-nation bloc.
When French voters will head to the polls on May 7 they will have the choice of two highly unconventional candidates. Macron is an ex-banker who served as economy minister but is otherwise a newcomer to the political scene as he has never served in elected office and only founded his party last year. He is seen as the clear favorite in the runoff against the 48-year-old Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigrant National Front. At just 39 years old, Macron would be France’s youngest president.
Demonstrating the way other politicians will unite behind Macron to ensure Le Pen loses, defeated Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, who appears to have suffered a humiliating defeat in fifth place, urged voters to get behind the young centrist. Fillon also conceded defeat and endorsed Macron. “Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” Fillon told supporters. “I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children.”