How people elect parliaments
The next 5-year term of the French presidency will be contested by independent Emmanuel Macron and nationalist Marine Le Pen (National Front) on May 7, after they were the two highest-placed candidates in Sunday’s first round of voting.
Projections show Macron winning 23.7% of the vote to Le Pen’s 21.7%.
Conservative François Fillon (Les Republicans) and left-wing independent Jean-Luc Mélenchon are apparently a close third and fourth at around 19.5% each.
The candidate of the Socialist party, Benoît Hamon, has placed a humiliating 5th, on about 6%.
The Socialists had actually feared that their vote would fall below 5%, a financially disastrous prospect as it would have lost them eligibility for public funding for their campaign.
Voter turnout has been strong, at a little over 80%.
The results – which unlike in recent UK and US elections opinion polling seems to have accurately predicted – are historic. The candidates nominated by nation’s two major political parties, the centre-right Republicans and the currently governing Socialists, have placed 3rd and 5th. Only once in modern times have these two parties not placed 1st and 2nd between them.
The candidate of the nationalist far-right National Front party has placed 2nd, with independent campaigns placing 1st and 4th.
Under the two-round runoff voting system, Macron now looks the overwhelming favourite to win the presidency. The major party leaders have already called for voters to back Macron over Le Pen in the final round in two weeks.
Sitting Socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Benoît Hamon have quickly urged support for Macron.
“I solemnly call for a vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round in order to beat the Front National and obstruct the disastrous project of Marine Le Pen that would take France backwards and divide the French people,” Prime Minister Cazeneuve said.
The centre-right’s Fillon has also conceded defeat, and strongly urged voters to back Macron over Le Pen in the final round.
“Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power,” Fillon said.
“The Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.
“Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron.”
Only Mélenchon has yet to accept the projected results (as at 21:40 French CEST), saying they are “based on opinion polls”.
Despite the endorsements, Le Pen will clearly pick up some votes from the supporters of other parties. Polling during the past week on the hypothetical Macron-Le Pen contest show Macron leading by around 62%-38%.
Once the presidency is decided, the nation must also elect a new national assembly in June, requiring campaign organisation across 577 local electoral divisions. How that will unfold with the one-off independent presidential campaigns performing so prominently remains to be seen.
(Cover image: French Interior Ministry)