French Election Results 2017: Macron and Le Pen advance to runoff election
The results of France's presidential election are in. Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen will advance to a head-to-head runoff election on May 7, the Associated Press reports.
Macron, whose views are sometimes described as neoliberal, came in first with 23.7% of the vote in Ipsos estimates, according to the Economist. Le Pen came in second, with 21.9%. She was closely flanked by Francois Fillon, the center-right candidate running on the Republicans ticket, and Jean-Luc Melenchon, a former senator and Socialist Party member who ran on a left-wing ticket, who were each estimated to place slightly below 20%.
Le Pen is widely expected to lose the runoff as other parties consolidate against her — though the fact she placed so highly at all underscores the deep crisis plaguing France's traditional political establishment.
Le Pen's National Front has succeeded in marketing itself as a more palatable alternative to mainstream parties in recent years, but it has a sordid history: Le Pen's father, FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, was infamous for his xenophobic views and regularly engaged in Holocaust denial. However, as Marine Le Pen assumed control of FN, a bitter feud developed between the two and she eventually kicked her father out of the party.
The apple does not seem to have fallen far from the tree: While Le Pen has publicly toned down the rhetoric compared to her father, she similarly engaged in Holocaust denial and casts herself as the last champion of a democratic France beleaguered by immigrants, the "European Soviet Union" and Islam.
Fillon was formerly the prime minister of France under Nicolas Sarkozy. He also talked tough on immigration, promising to implement a quota system on non-European Union nationals in order to discourage the poor or people he believed are unable to assimilate from entering France.
On the campaign trail, Fillon denounced radical Islam as "totalitarianism," as well as promised to significantly slash the French budget by approximately $105 billion and fire 500,000 civil service workers.
According to the AP, Fillon responded to news of Le Pen's victory by asking people to rally behind Macron in the runoff elections.
Macron never ran for political office before this election and similarly positioned himself as an outsider populist looking to preserve France's role in the EU. He has praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for responding to terror attacks by upholding "our common values and preserving our common dignity by welcoming and lodging refugees in distress," even as he jabbed at Germany's austerity-heavy response to economic crises in poorer parts of the EU like Greece.
Melenchon attracted considerable attention for both his platform, which involved calling a constituent assembly to dismantle France's presidential system in favor of a parliamentary one and strict environmental regulations, as well as a campaign which relied heavily on grassroots, digital activism. He also promised to invest significantly in a vast stimulus program and threatened to leave the EU if German leaders do not continue pushing austerity programs on other countries in the region.
April 23, 2017, 4:06 p.m. Eastern: This article has been updated.