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French President Narrowly Wins First Round of Voting


From left, French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen .

PARIS — Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will face off against each other in a presidential runoff vote on April 24, following the first round of the contest Sunday.

Macron won about 27.8% of the vote to Le Pen’s 23.1%, with more than 90% of the votes counted.

Analysts had feared there would be a low turnout with pre-election polls forecasting Macron and Le Pen as the likely contenders in the runoff.

While long lines stretched in front of some polling stations at midday in northeastern Paris, many other Parisians were out enjoying the spring sunshine.

But in the end turnout was better than feared, hovering around 75%.

Current French President Emmanuel Macron and centrist candidate for reelection talks to supporters as he visits Spezet, Brittany, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
Current French President Emmanuel Macron and centrist candidate for reelection talks to supporters as he visits Spezet, Brittany, Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Retiree Paulette Jean-Baptiste was having a hard time choosing among the dozen presidential hopefuls. She was torn between Macron, Le Pen and far left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

For Jean-Baptiste, who originally comes from Guadeloupe, cost-of-living worries are a key concern. Taxes are too high, she says — and it’s hard making ends meet.

IT manager Marie backed Melenchon, who finished with about 22% of the vote – barely out of the running. But Marie says she believes Macron had a difficult presidency, managing the COVID-19 pandemic and now, the war in Ukraine.

French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen delivers a speech at her election day headquarters in Paris, Sunday, April 10, 2022.
French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen delivers a speech at her election day headquarters in Paris, Sunday, April 10, 2022.

She says she also thinks France’s centrist leader could have had a stronger social platform.

The run-up to this vote saw Macron’s once-comfortable lead evaporate. Pre-election polls found Marine Le Pen enjoying a last-minute surge, following her campaign that emphasized cost of living concerns which voters like Jean-Baptiste have prioritized.

Le Pen has also worked to soften her anti-immigration, euro-skeptic image. It appears to have worked — especially since another presidential candidate, Eric Zemmour, is seen as even more right-wing than she.

FILE - French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour arrives on stage during a campaign rally in Toulon, southern France, Sunday, March 6, 2022.
FILE - French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour arrives on stage during a campaign rally in Toulon, southern France, Sunday, March 6, 2022.

Macron joined the campaigning late, claiming he was too busy doing his job — especially with the war in Ukraine. He staged just one major election rally before the first round and didn’t participate in any face-to-face debates against the other candidates.

Political analysts like Nicole Bacharan believe that cost him support.

“I guess part of the problem is also that he gives a sense to a lot of French people that he cares more about Ukraine than he cares about what’s going on in France. I don’t think it’s necessarily true,” she said.

Still, Paris voter Patrick Giraudeau has cast his ballot for Macron. Giraudeau broadly approves of Macron’s presidency. He’s also worried about a Le Pen win.

“The results of the last five years are for me not so bad. And secondly, and that’s very important, the challenger — she is for me dangerous… dangerous for France,” he said.

Macron faced Le Pen in a runoff five years ago and won the second round with about two-thirds of the vote. Analysts say this time around, the outcome is far from certain.

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