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France’s Macron appears set for Elysee in runoff with Le Pen

News 23 Apr 2017

left right A combination picture shows portraits of the candidates who will run in the second round in the 2017 French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron (L), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader. Pictures taken March 11, 2017 (R) and February 21, 2017 (L). REUTERS/Christian Hartmann 1/33 left right Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, celebrates after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, in Henin-Beaumont, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau 2/33 left right French riot police clash with demonstrators after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, in Paris, France April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pellisier 3/33 left right French citizens and Emmanuel Macron supporters Victor Dutreil and Louise Courchinoux react as they watch the televised French presidential elections at a viewing event held by the Universite de Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Dario Ayala 4/33 left right French riot police clash with demonstrators after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, in Paris, France April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pellisier 5/33 left right An official counts a ballot showing the name of Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, as the counting began for the first round of 2017 French presidential election, at a polling station in Tulle, central France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau 6/33 left right Officials empty a ballot box at the start of counting in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, at a polling station in Tulle, central France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau 7/33 left right Officials empty a ballot box at the start of counting in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, at a polling station in Tulle, central France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau 8/33 left right An official counts a ballot showing the name of Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, as the counting began for the first round of 2017 French presidential election, at a polling station in Tulle, central France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau 9/33 left right Marine Le Pen (L), French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, casts her ballot in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, April 23, 2017. At R, Mayor of Henin-Beaumont Steeve Briois. REUTERS/Charles Platiau 10/33 left right Emmanuel Macron (L), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, casts his ballot in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer 11/33 left right Names of 2017 French presidential election candidates are seen printed during the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Paris, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau 12/33 left right Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, casts her ballot in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol 13/33 left right People line up to vote at a polling station in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Vaulx-en-Velin, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Emannuel Foudrot 14/33 left right French President Francois Hollande (L) arrives at a polling station to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Tulle, central France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau 15/33 left right A policeman looks on a people participate in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Vaulx-en-Velin, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Emannuel Foudrot 16/33 left right Benoit Hamon, French Socialist party 2017 presidential candidate, leaves the polling booth as he votes in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Trappes, near Paris, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler 17/33 left right A woman leaves a polling booth as she votes in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Vaulx-en-Velin near Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot 18/33 left right David Rachline (R), mayor of Frejus and campaign director of Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, arrives at a polling station in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau 19/33 left right A woman prepares to cast her ballot to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Trappes, near Paris, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler 20/33 left right People line up to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Vaulx-en-Velin near Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot 21/33 left right A voter chooses ballots before voting in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Pratta 22/33 left right People choose their ballots before voting in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Pratta 23/33 left right Ballot envelopes and ballot papers are seen on a table at a polling station in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Pratta 24/33 left right A policeman secures the entrance of a polling station as people arrive to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Henin-Beaumont, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol 25/33 left right A policeman stands near a polling station during the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Henin-Beaumont, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol 26/33 left right A policeman installs barriers near a polling station during the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Henin-Beaumont, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol 27/33 left right A voter casts his ballot at the polling station to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Paris, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann 28/33 left right People line up to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Vaulx-en-Velin near Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot 29/33 left right A voter prepares to vote in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Paris, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann 30/33 left right People choose their ballots before voting in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Lyon, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Pratta 31/33 left right People choose their ballots before voting in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Marseille, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson 32/33 left right An official checks her watch for the opening of a polling station during the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Marseille, France, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson 33/33 By Ingrid Melander and Pascale Antonie | PARIS

PARIS Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are set to face each other in a May 7 runoff for the French presidency after coming first and second in Sunday's first round of voting, according to multiple projections.

Though Macron, 39, is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, opinion polls in the run-up to the ballot have consistently seen him easily winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Le Pen.

Sunday's outcome spells disaster for the two mainstream groupings that have dominated French politics for 60 years, and also reduces the prospect of an anti-establishment shock on the scale of Britain's vote last June to quit the EU and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

The euro currency was quoted higher immediately after the first projections were issued, with banks quoting around $1.092 versus $1.072 on Friday evening, according to Reuters data. EUR=

In a race that was too close to call up to the last minute, Macron, a pro-European Union ex-banker and economy minister who founded his own party only a year ago, was projected to get 24 percent of the first-round vote by the pollster Harris, and 23.7 percent by Elabe.

Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration and anti-EU National Front, was given 22 percent by both institutes. At least three further pollsters all projected broadly similar results.

Macron's supporters, gathered at a Paris conference center burst into singing the national anthem, the Marseillaise, a few seconds after results came through. Many were under 25, reflecting some of the appeal of a man aiming to become France's youngest head of state since Napoleon.

Le Pen, who is herself bidding to make history as France's first female president, follows in the footsteps of her father, who founded the National Front and reached the second round of the presidential election in 2002.

Jean-Marie Le Pen was ultimately crushed when voters from right and left rallied around the conservative Jacques Chirac in order to keep out a party whose far-right, anti-immigrant views they considered unpalatably xenophobic.

His daughter has done much to soften her party's image, and found widespread support among young voters by pitching herself as an anti-establishment defender of French workers and French interests.

"RAMPANT GLOBALIZATION"

"The great issue in this election is the rampant globalization that is putting our civilization at risk," she declared in her first word after results came through.

Nevertheless, Le Pen seems destined to suffer a similar fate to her father.

Defeated Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, Socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and defeated right-wing candidate Francois Fillon all urged voters to rally behind Macron in the second round.

Harris gave both Fillon, badly damaged by allegations that his wife had been paid from the public purse for work she did not do, and far-left contender Jean-Luc Melenchon 20 percent in the first round.

"This defeat is mine and it is for me and me alone to bear it," Fillon told a news conference, adding that he would now vote for Macron.

The result will mean a face-off between politicians with radically contrasting economic visions for a country whose economy lags that of its neighbors and where a quarter of young people are unemployed.

Macron favors gradual deregulation measures that will be welcomed by global financial markets, as well as cuts in state expenditure and the civil service. Le Pen wants to print money to finance expanded welfare payments and tax cuts, ditch the euro currency and possibly pull out of the EU.

Whatever the outcome on May 7, it will mean a redrawing of France's political landscape, which has been dominated for 60 years by mainstream groupings from the center-left and center-right, both of whose candidates faded.

Macron ally Gerard Collomb said the defeat of the mainstream center-left Socialists and the center-right Republicans showed a "deep malaise" in French society.

The final outcome on May 7 will influence France's standing in Europe and the world as a nuclear-armed, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and founding member of the organization that transformed itself into the European Union.

(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Bate Felix, Michaela Cabrera, Michel Rose, Geert De Clercq, Mathieu Rosemain, John Irish, Andrew Callus, Sarah White in Paris, and Ilze Filks in Henin-Beaumont; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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