Marine Le Pen: I will be a president of all
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Centrist President Emmanuel Macron took his hunt for more re-election support on Monday to France’s former industrial heartland in the north, a blue-collar stronghold of far-right rival Marine Le Pen, whom he will face in an April 24 runoff vote.
President Macron, 44, is vying to become the first president in two decades to win a second term, but faces a tough challenge from Le Pen, who has tapped into anger over the cost of living and a perception that Macron is disconnected from everyday hardships.
A Le Pen win would send shockwaves across Europe and beyond, and deliver a similar jolt to the establishment as Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU) or Donald Trump’s 2017 entry into the White House.
Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen came out on top in Sunday’s first-round vote, setting up a repeat of the 2017 runoff between the pro-European economic liberal and the euro-sceptic nationalist.
Left-wing voters will be crucial to determining the outcome of the election.
Hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came a close third on Sunday, told supporters not one single vote should go to the far right – but he stopped short of endorsing Mr Macron.
“Let’s make no mistake, nothing has been decided yet,” President Macron told his cheering supporters late on Sunday after partial results showed him qualifying for the runoff.
Sunday’s results, however, have left commentators wondering whether the incumbent President has done enough in the past four years to avoid losing to Ms Le Pen, closer than ever to him in recent polls.
Journalist and author Marie Le Conte wrote: “We don’t know what’ll happen in two weeks but even if Macron wins again, what happens in 2027?
“He’s already proven he can’t hold back the far right and both the traditional left and traditional right have failed to recover even after a full electoral cycle – what next?
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“Obviously I get that people are relieved by Le Pen’s numbers not being as high as they could have been but I’m personally just feeling very bleak.
“I don’t think this is a first round that can in any way be seen as anything but terrifying.”
An interior ministry count showed that with 97 percent of votes counted, Mr Macron had won 27.60 percent of voters’ support.
Ms Le Pen secured 23.41 percent and Mr Melenchon 21.95 percent.
Polls predict a close-fought second round with one survey projecting Mr Macron will win with just 51 percent of the vote and 49 percent for Ms Le Pen.
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The gap is so tight that victory either way is within the margin of error.
Even so, investors appeared somewhat relieved.
France’s CAC 40 outperformed other European peers, rising 0.4 percent versus a decline of 0.5 percent for the pan-European STOXX 600. The euro ticked higher but held below a high of $1.0955 hit in early Asian trading.
French government bond yields were little changed after the 10-year yield had earlier touched its highest level since July 2015. The German-French 10-year yield spread tightened by more than six basis points to 48.4 basis points.
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