France elections: Macron and Le Pen ‘through to run-off’
The centrist Emmanuel Macron will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a run-off for the French presidency on 7 May, multiple projections indicate.
Mr Macron leads with 23.7% in first round voting while Ms Le Pen won 21.7%, an Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll suggests.
Opinion polls in the run-up to the ballot consistently saw Mr Macron defeating his rival in the final round.
The two saw off a strong challenge from centre-right François Fillon and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Another projection, from TF1/RTL, put Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen neck and neck in the first round. Final results are expected in the coming hours.
Whoever wins the next round, the voting marks a shift away from the leftist and centre-right parties that have long dominated French politics.
Ms Le Pen leads the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant National Front party. She has attempted to soften the party’s tone and brought big gains in the 2015 regional elections.
She has urged a shake-up of France’s relations with the EU, calling for negotiations followed by a referendum.
After reaching the run-off, she hailed the result as “historic”, vowing to defend the French nation and its “independence”.
Mr Macron served as economy minister under current President Francois Hollande. Despite his relative inexperience – he has never served as an MP – polls see him defeating Ms Le Pen in the second round.
He told the AFP news agency a “new page in French politics” was being turned as the results emerged.
Mr Macron is also likely to attract support from the political establishment.
Defeated rival François Fillon has already endorsed him.
With Ms Le Pen long predicted to qualify for the second round, the BBC’s Hugh Schofield says Mr Macron’s likely victory is the story of the evening.
In other projections:
- Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose popularity surged on the back of strong debate performances, is tipped to win around 19.5% of the vote. He has said he and his team do not “acknowledge the result on the basis of polls”
- François Fillon, whose campaign was rocked by corruption allegations, is on the same mark
- Benoit Hamon of President Hollande’s Socialist party lags far behind on 6%
- The six other candidates running were all on single figures
President Hollande himself decided against running amid poor ratings.
Turnout nationally appears to be similar to the last election in 2012, at about 80%.
Nearly 60,000 police and soldiers were deployed across the country to secure polling, with France still reeling from the shooting of a policeman on the Champs Elysees.