Macron, Le Pen to face off in French presidential election

PARIS (NBC) – Outsider Emmanuel Macron faces a showdown with far-right populist Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, remaking the country’s political landscape and setting up a battle over its participation in the European Union.

For the first time in French history, no mainstream candidate will be on the ballot in next month’s second-round runoff — a huge defeat for the center-right and center-left groupings that have dominated the country’s politics for decades.

It also presents voters with the starkest possible choice: Macron’s vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen’s “French-first” platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.

Macron, a political novice, won 24 percent in Sunday’s first-round ballot and Le Pen gained 22 percent, Reuters reported.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron greets his supporters as he leaves the restaurant where he met his staff after his election night in Paris, France, Monday, April 24, 2017. Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France’s presidential election, remaking the country’s political system and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

 

At his headquarters in Paris, Macron promised to be a president “who protects, who transforms and builds” if elected. With an eye to Le Pen, he told the crowd: “I want to be the president of patriots in the face of a threat from nationalists.”

Socialist candidate Benoit Hamo and scandal-ridden Conservative candidate François Fillon conceded defeat Sunday afternoon and threw their support behind Macron, condemning the nationalist right-wing views of Le Pen and her National Front party.

Far-right leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen, surrounded by bodyguards, celebrates with supporters while holding a bunch of flowers after exit poll results of the first round of the presidential election were announced at her election day headquarters in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, Sunday, April 23, 2017. Polling agency projections show far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron leading in the first-round French presidential election. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

 

“Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France,” said Fillon. “There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. 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.”

Marion Maréchal Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s niece and a member of the French Parliament, said the National Front’s presence in a runoff was a big deal for her party.

“For 15 years, there has not been a pro-sovereignty candidate in the second round of a presidential election,” she said. This is great ideological victory.”

Marine Le Pen added her own comments later in the afternoon, when she addressed supporters in her home constituency of Hénin-Beaumont. She told them that they were choosing between unchecked globalization and homeland-defending nationalism.

“French people must seize this historical opportunity that has opened to them because what is at stake in this election is savage globalization, which jeopardizes our civilization,” she said to a roaring crowd.

 

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