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Marine Le Pen meets Emmanuel Macron in French runoff

Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen will face each other in the second and final round of the French presidential election on April 24 after beating the other candidates in the first round, according to initial estimates, on Sunday.

Macron won 28.6 percent and Le Pen 24.4 percent of the vote in the first ballot ahead of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 20.2 percent, according to projections by Ifop-Fiducial for television channel TF1 based on partial returns.

The outcome of Sunday’s vote suggests Le Pen, 53, is closer than ever to winning power for the far right in France and nationalist victories for Donald Trump in the US and pro-Brexit supporters in the UK to emulate six years ago.

Eric Zemmour, the anti-immigration TV polemicist who briefly eclipsed Le Pen after entering the race last year, is expected to have won 6.8 percent of the vote in the first round — and most of his supporters have told the pollsters that they will support Le Pen in the second round.

Valérie Pécresse, the Conservative candidate whose campaign failed after winning her party’s primaries, is expected to receive just 4.6 percent of the vote in the first round. Yannick Jadot of the Greens also gets 4.6 percent and Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor and socialist candidate, 1.9 percent.

Le Pen is skeptical about the EU, has announced his retirement from NATO’s military command structure and has been an admirer of Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the past. If she wins in two weeks, it would send shockwaves across Europe and the world at a time when Russian forces are fighting a war on European soil in Ukraine.

Le Pen has also promised, if she becomes president, to introduce more protectionist economic policies to favor French industry, to crack down on Islamists and immigration, and to ban women from wearing the veil in public because it is an “Islamist uniform”.

Battling her third presidential campaign, Le Pen has soared in opinion polls in recent weeks after focusing on working-class concerns about the rising cost of living at a time when prices for petrol, diesel and other commodities are falling after the Russian attack on Ukraine have skyrocketed.

Liberal internationalist Macron – involved in intense NATO, G7 and EU negotiations over sanctions on Russia and support for Ukraine – entered the campaign late and lost his early poll lead trying to convince voters to do so that they would have to give him a second five-year tenure at the Elysée Palace.

He argues that Le Pen as president would pose a threat to France, the EU and the Western alliance and criticizes her protectionist economic program as incoherent and unaffordable.

https://www.ft.com/content/eed614b1-932a-48fb-8cb2-5c1cd946f07c Marine Le Pen meets Emmanuel Macron in French runoff

Adam Bradshaw

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