French election: Emmanuel Macron beats Marine Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French presidential election, Interior Ministry figures showed.

The independent centrist and far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen were the top two candidates in the contest.

They will now go head-to-head in a run off on 7 May. Polls have consistently shown Mr Macron well ahead.

Emmanuel Macron, 39, started his own movement En Marche! just over a year ago.

:: Who is Emmanuel Macron?

At a rally in Paris he told supporters: "In your name, I will be... the voice of hope for our country and for Europe."

"I want to be the president of the patriots against the threat of nationalists," he said.

Projections shows Ms Le Pen finished in second, closely behind Mr Macron.

At a rally in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont she urged supporters to fight on against an "arrogant elite".

She said: "This result is historic. It puts on me a huge responsibility to defend the French nation, its unity, its security, its culture, its prosperity and its independence.

"The main thing at stake in this election is the rampant globalisation that is endangering our civilisation."

:: Who is Marine Le Pen?

It means next month's run-off will not feature a candidate from either of France's two main parties.

The conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who finished third, called on supporters of his Les Republicains party to back Mr Macron.

He told supporters at a rally in Paris: "There is no other choice but to vote against the far right, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron."

Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, who finished well behind in fifth, also endorsed Mr Macron.

Mr Hamon said: "I am calling to beat the Front National, to beat the far-right by voting for Emmanuel Macron even if the latter does not belong to the left and has no desire to represent it tomorrow.

"I am making a clear distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the republic."

:: French election night: As it happened

Current president, Francois Hollande, called Mr Macron to congratulate him.

Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon finished fourth but refused to concede until official results are published and did not endorse either of his rivals.

:: How do the French elections work?

Official French interior ministry results show Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen neck and neck with most of the votes counted.

However, the results counted so far do not include those from France's largest cities which are thought not to favour Ms Le Pen.

The final result is expected early on Monday morning.

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