The French presidential battle will be between far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron after major opponents conceded defeat following the first round ballot.
It is the first time in modern French history that no mainstream party candidate will advance to the final vote.
Macron, who quit current president Francois Hollande’s Socialists just last year ago to set up a new party, led the way with 23.7% of the first round vote, according to an exit poll by Ipsos and Sopra Steria.
He led Le Pen (21.7%) by 2%, with scandal-plagued Gaullist Francois Fillon and far-left challenger Jean-Luc Melenchon tied in third on 19.5%. Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon trailed with just 6.2% of the vote.
Benoit Hamon, leader of socialist party at 6-7%, a crushing defeat, worst in living memories.The end of French socialism as we have known it
— Agnes Poirier (@AgnesCPoirier) April 23, 2017
Voters will go to the polls on May 7 to choose between the former investment banker Macron and Le Pen, who has tried to shake her National Front party of its racist and anti-Semitic association.
I can't believe that people are surprised Le Pen made the run off, like, was this ever in doubt? 🤔
— Matt (@escmatthew) April 23, 2017
As the projections came in, young protesters outside the Place de la Bastille in eastern Paris clashed with police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The scenes were understandably very different among supporters.
Over on Twitter, many have been expressing their lack of surprise for the way the voting has gone.
@NateSilver538 We don't doubt that Le Pen has a high chance of losing. But it would be no surprise to anyone if she actually won. Not this year.
— Nick Carroll (@LibertyAndTech) April 23, 2017
Not a surprise for Le Pen to make it through the first round but surely she can't win a two horse race..can she?
— Kieran (@WBAKizz) April 23, 2017
After conceding defeat Fillon joined fellow conservative politicians and Socialist prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve in throwing their weight behind Macron as an anti-Le Pen candidate in the second round of voting.