Saturday 16 December 2017

Explainer: Six things we learned from the first round of France's presidential election

A combination picture shows portraits of the candidates who will run in the second round in the 2017 French presidential election
A combination picture shows portraits of the candidates who will run in the second round in the 2017 French presidential election
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen led the first round of France's presidential election, qualifying for a second-round runoff in two weeks, final voting figures from the Interior Ministry showed on Monday.

The figures put Macron on 23.75 percent of votes and Le Pen on 21.53 percent, followed by conservative Francois Fillon at 19.91 percent and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon on 19.64 percent, the ministry said in a statement.

They will go head to head in the final May 7 runoff.

Here's what else we learned from the polls:

1. Emmanuel Macron is predicted to be France's next president

A Harris survey taken on Sunday saw Macron winning the runoff by 64 percent to 36. An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll gave a similar result.

French far-right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen leaves her campaign headquarters in Paris (AP)
French far-right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen leaves her campaign headquarters in Paris (AP)

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

He is a pro-EU ex-banker and former economy minister who founded his own party only a year ago.

Sunday's outcome is a huge defeat for the two centre-right and centre-left groupings that have dominated French politics for 60 years.

2. Macron has said he is determined to shake up the French political status quo if elected

If he wins, Macron's biggest challenges will lie ahead, as he first tries to secure a working parliamentary majority for his young party in June, and then seeks broad popular support for labour reforms that are sure to meet resistance.

Addressing the battle ahead, he declared he would seek to break with a system that "has been incapable of responding to the problems of our country for more than 30 years".

"From today I want to build a majority for a government and for a new transformation. It will be made up of new faces and new talent in which every man and woman can have a place," he said.

Central to Macron's approach to Europe is his belief that France must reform its own economy in order to restore a level of trust with Germany. He wants to pursue a comprehensive deal with Berlin that includes reform of the euro zone and closer cooperation on defence and migration.

3. Macron may establish a mixed parliament if elected

Many analysts are now turning their attention beyond his expected victory in the second round to ask whether he can gather the political muscle to enact his programme.

Macron says his party will field candidates in all 577 constituencies, but he has also made clear that he will welcome those from other parties who share his views.

Some 50 Socialist legislators have already signed up to his movement, including some heavyweights, but the bigger his second-round score, the more attractive it will be for others to follow suit. He might have to make do with a coalition government.

4. It was a crushing defeat for former favourite François Fillon

It was a bitter night for Fillon, seen as a shoo-in for the Elysee until he was hit in January by allegations that his wife had been paid from the public purse for work she did not do.

Fillon secured 19.91 percent of the vote in the first round and far-left contender Jean-Luc Melenchon 19.64 percent.

"This defeat is mine and it is for me and me alone to bear it," Fillon, a 63-year-old former conservative prime minister, told a news conference, adding that he would now vote for Macron.

Francois Fillon Photo: AP Photo/Michel Spingler
Francois Fillon Photo: AP Photo/Michel Spingler

5. Le Pen has welcomed the "historic" vote and vowed to defend France

Although she may not have topped the polls, Le Pen has hailed the result as  a victory for her nationalist party.

The far-right candidate said: "This result is historic. It puts on me a huge responsibility to defend the French nation, its unity, its security, its culture, its prosperity and its independence.

"The main thing at stake in this election is the rampant globalisation that is endangering our civilisation," she added, urging French voters to shake off the shackles of an "arrogant elite".

6. The stock markets benefited from the result

As investors breathed a collective sigh of relief at what the market regarded as the best of several possible outcomes, the euro soared 2 percent to $1.09395 (€1.01) when markets opened in Asia before slipping back to around $1.0844 (€1).

Marine Le Pen came second in the first round of voting. Photo: AP
Marine Le Pen came second in the first round of voting. Photo: AP

It was the euro's highest level since Nov. 10, the day after the results of the U.S. presidential election. France's bluechip CAC 40 was seen opening 2 percent higher on Monday.

Reuters

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