France’s Le Pen hails ‘historic’ result after reaching runoff

Paris: April 24
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has claimed victory in the first-round presidential race and says that her National Front party will represent “the great alternative” to the French people.
With a broad smile, Ms. Le Pen has stood before an adoring crowd and pledged to open a much-needed debate on globalization. Her speech ended with the French national anthem. Le Pen has campaigned to leave the European Union, protect France’s borders, clamp down on immigration, and expel Islamic extremists.
Partial official results from France’s first-round presidential election show far-right leader . Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron leading. The two will advance to the May 7 runoff, after rivals conceded defeat. With 19.1% of the vote counted, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday night that Ms. Le Pen was leading with 25% followed by Mr. Macron with 21.3%. The early vote count includes primarily rural constituencies that lean to the right, while urban areas that lean left are counted later.
Polling agency projections show Macron in the lead with between 23 and 24%, followed by Ms. Le Pen with between 21 and 23%.
Earlier in the day, French voters flocked to the polls on Sunday in the first round of a cliffhanger presidential election seen as vital for the future of the ailing European Union.Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are the favourites to progress to a run-off on May 7, 2017 but late gains by conservative Francois Fillon and left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon blew the race wide open.
Ms. Le Pen, the 48-year-old leader of the anti-immigration National Front (FN), hopes to capitalise on security fears that were catapulted to the fore of the campaign after the fatal shooting on Thursday of a policeman on Paris’s Champs Elysees avenue claimed by the Islamic State group. Voting was brisk, defying forecasts of a low turnout after a campaign dominated by scandals and a flight from the mainstream parties that have alternated in power for the past half century. After nine hours of voting, turnout was 69.42%, one of the highest levels in 40 years. While down slightly on the same point in the 2012 election, an extra hour of voting in smaller towns was expected to take turnout to around 78-81%. Riding a wave of disaffection with globalisation that carried Donald Trump to the White House and led Britain to vote for Brexit, Ms. Le Pen has vowed to dramatically reduce immigration, abandon the euro and hold a referendum on withdrawing from the E.U. While constitutional obstacles would make it difficult for her to uncouple France from the E.U., a Le Pen victory could nonetheless be fatal for the E.U., already weakened by Britain’s shock vote to leave. Macron, a 39-year-old pro-E.U. reformer, is seeking to become France’s youngest ever President despite never having held elected office. Tapping into anger with established parties, the former banker and Economy Minister formed his own movement, En Marche (On the Move), that he says is “neither to the left nor to the right.” But polls show the scandal-tainted Fillon, a former Prime Minister, and hard-left firebrand Melenchon also in with a fighting chance. Le Pen cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, a former coal mining town in the party’s northern heartland. Macron voted in the chic northern seaside resort of Le Touquet with wife Brigitte, his former high school teacher who is 25 years his senior. Fillon and Mr. Melenchon both voted in Paris.

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