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Macron leads Le Pen as runoff vote looms in French election

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rench President Emmanuel Macron will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote after coming out on top of France’s first-round presidential election.

Pollsters said Macron came in ahead of Le Pen in the first round winning between 28.1-29.5% of votes while Le Pen won 23.3-24.4% of voter support according to projections.

The April 24 run-off follows Sunday’s first round of voting with the election being held as the incumbent Macron admitted the right wing populist could beat him.

Macron had been the frontrunner for much of the election campaign but his popularity wavered in recent weeks as the pain of inflation and soaring food and energy prices roared back as dominant election themes for many low-income households.

His late entry into the campaign as he concentrated on diplomacy over the conflict in Ukraine and his focus on an unpopular plan to increase the retirement age, have dented the president’s ratings.

Macron trounced Le Pen by a landslide to become France’s youngest president in 2017.

The win for the former banker was seen as a victory against populist, nationalist politics, coming in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the White House and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, both in 2016.

With populist Viktor Orban winning a fourth consecutive term as Hungary’s prime minister days ago, eyes have now turned to France’s resurgent far right candidates.

Controversial National Rally leader Le Pen wants to ban Muslim headscarves in streets and halal and kosher butchers. She also wants to drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe.

Observers say a Macron re-election would spell real likelihood for increased cooperation and investment in European security and defence — especially with a new pro-EU German government.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has afforded Macron the chance to demonstrate his influence on the international stage and burnish his pro-NATO credentials in election debates.

Macron is the only front-runner who supports the alliance while other candidates hold differing views on France’s role within it.

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