FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS Goes to RUNOFF Between LE PEN and MACRON

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Last April 23, France went to the polls to vote for the 2017 presidential election, an unexpectedly crucial political exercise that may be set to influence the future path not only of that country but the landscape of the European Union. The current batch of candidates was running on some incredibly relevant issues ranging from immigration control, trade agreements and even continuing membership in the EU. With Francois Hollande choosing not to stand for reelection, the first incumbent of the Fifth French Republic not to seek a second term, the field was open to eleven candidates that resulted in no majority for any. Therefore a run-off vote will be decided between the top two names, the far-rightist Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) and the more centrist Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (EM)

As BBC tells it, the second round of elections was quite the surprise on its own, as Le Pen would be squaring off against not the expected competition of the center-rightist Republican Francois Fillon –who with the FN bet were leaders of early opinion polls – but rather the EM’s political outsider candidate Macron, President Hollande’s former economy minister and a former banker who has never even run an election campaign before. But with his first-place finish in the original vote (the one with no majority), he is suddenly emerging as the favorite to become French president when the run-off takes place on May 7.

At last count with 97% of the national votes tallied, Macron garnered 23.9% while Le Pen came second at 21.4%. Fillon brought up third at roughly 19%. The results were momentous in another way: neither of the candidates for both the primary left-wing and right-wing political parties got through for this second round.

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The top bets each held their own victory celebrations as the count wound down. Marine Le Pen rallied the National Front supporters to vote for her in May to “ensure the survival of France”. Her platform seeks to cut down on immigration, end some free-trade deals and possibly take France out of the EU in the manner of UK’s BREXIT. Emmanuel Macron meanwhile presented himself as an inclusive president for France, marking a distinction between his camp and Le Pen’s Nationalists by painting his voters and supporters as French “Patriots”.

“I hope that in a fortnight I will become your president,” said Macron in his speech. “I want to become the president of all the people of France – the president of the patriots in the face of the threat from the nationalists.” The En Marche! Party, which he founded, espouses a centrist, liberal and pro-EU agenda. In light of these events Fillon has urged his voters to throw their support to Macron in the run-off polls. So has Benoit Hamon, candidate for Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, who placed fifth in the April 23 vote.

Photo courtesy of middleeasteye.net

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