France elections: Macron and Le Pen through to run-off

from BBC News,

The centrist Emmanuel Macron will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a run-off for the French presidency on 7 May, near-final results show.

With 96% of votes counted from Sunday's first round, Mr Macron has 23.9% with Ms Le Pen on 21.4%. Opinion polls have consistently predicted Mr Macron defeating his rival in the run-off. The two fought off a strong challenge from centre-right François Fillon and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Whoever wins the second round, the voting marks a shift away from the decades-long dominance of leftist and centre-right parties in French politics.

Macron cements his rise While Ms Le Pen has long been seen as likely to make the second round, Emmanuel Macron's rise has been swift. The BBC's Hugh Schofield says Mr Macron's likely victory is the story of the evening.

He told cheering supporters "we have changed the face of French political life in one year", calling for people to rally against "nationalists". A former banker, Mr Macron served as economy minister under current President Francois Hollande, quitting to launch a new party. He has never stood for election before and if he wins would become France's youngest-ever president. A pro-European, he has called for gradual deregulation of France's economy and a multi-billion dollar public investment plan.

Le Pen hails 'historic' result As the results came in, Ms Le Pen called herself "the candidate for the people", saying that the "survival of France" was at stake. "The first step... has been taken," she said. "This result is historic."

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