French election 2017: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen through to presidential run off

Henry Samuel

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will fight for the French presidency after the country's two main parties crashed out of the first round for the first time since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

In a seismic shift in French politics, final results put Mr Macron, an independent centrist, top on 23.75 per cent, with Ms Le Pen, the far-Right Front National leader, just behind on 21.53 per cent.

Conservative François Fillon, dubbed the "Thatcherite" candidate, was eliminated on 19.91 per cent, with revolutionary Leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon coming fourth on on 19.64 percent, the Interior Ministry said.

French Presidential Election - Exit Poll

Mr Macron raced on to stage, hand in hand with his wife, Brigitte. “The French people have expressed themselves,” he said. “It is an honour and a responsibility.”

He then paid tribute to the other candidates, naming them and thanking them for their messages of support after a campaign “marked by terrorism”.

“In a year, we have changed the face of French politics,” he said. “You have succeeded in convincing people that hope for our country is not a dream... In two weeks, I hope I will be your president, the president of the whole of France, the president of the patriots,” - the term Ms Le Pen uses to refer to her supporters.

Polls suggest Mr Macron will beat Ms Le Pen in the runoff, taking around 60 per cent of the vote. She had been banking on first place to create enough momentum to upset such predictions. 

A new Harris survey saw Macron winning the runoff by 64 percent to 36, and an Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll gave a similar result.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron waves before addressing his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris Credit: AP

The Socialist Party's official candidate Benoît Hamon came sixth with a paltry 6.2 per cent of the vote, meaning the two major French parties mustered less than 27 per cent of the vote.

The two finalists offer France two very different visions of Europe and the world, with Mr Macron billing himself as the progressive versus conservatives, and Ms Le Pen as the patriot versus the globalists.

On Europe, he wants to further beef up the euro zone, while Ms Le Pen intends to leave the euro and hold an in-out referendum on EU membership within six months of taking power.

Most of the defeated contenders instantly called on their supporters to vote for Mr Macron, with Mr Fillon warning that Ms Le Pen would lead France "to ruin and European chaos".

"Extremism can only bring misfortune and division to France," he said.

Emmanuel Macron supporters celebrate Credit:  PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP

Mr Hamon did likewise, saying: "I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

Mr Mélenchon last night refused to accept the partial results.

There was relief in the markets as the results from the first round came placing pro-EU Mr Macron in the lead, with the euro jumping two per cent on the day, according to CNBC.

From his Paris headquarters, an ecstatic Mr Macron, 39, an ex-investment banker and economy minister, said: "We are clearly turning a page of French political life."

His pole position vindicated his huge bet to leave the government of Socialist president François Hollande a year ago to found his own movement, En Marche! (Onwards!), on a "neither Left nor Right" platform. 

French presidential election 2017 - in pictures

Many predicted the bid by a political novice who has never held elected office would burst like a bubble of champagne Socialism.

Speaking from her stronghold in Hénin Beaumont, a former mining town in northern France which has an FN mayor, Ms Le Pen insisted: "The first step that will lead the French to the Elysée has been taken."

"Either we continue on the path of total de-regulation, offshoring, mass immigration, free movement of terrorists, the reign of big money. Or you  choose the France of borders that protects your identity," she said.

"It is time to liberate the French people."

4:17AM

Final results released

Final voting figures have been released by the Interior Ministry.

The figures put centrist Emmanuel Macron on 23.75 percent of votes and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 21.53 percent, followed by conservative Francois Fillon at 19.91 percent and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon on 19.64 percent, the ministry said in a statement.

3:35AM

Macron's challenge

Mr Macron has been tipped to win the run-off - but the scale of his victory could be decisive. Two surveys conducted on Sunday put him on 64 and 62 percent respectively for the second round.

Analysts say that if Macron fails to win more than 60 percent in the second round, he may find it hard to reassure a divided country that he has what it takes to reform the euro zone's second-largest economy, which is only starting to pick up speed after five years of anaemic growth.

Then, in turn, he might struggle to turn his promise to transcend traditional party divides into a working majority for his En Marche! (Onwards!) movement in June's parliamentary election, six weeks later.

Macron addressed that head-on in his victory speech, saying that "the power of the momentum behind me will be the key to my ability to lead and govern".

Vive la République ! Vive la France ! pic.twitter.com/DO0Izv3HzG

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 23, 2017

But in Le Pen, the former Rothschild investment banker faces a formidable rival.

"It's more complicated than it looks - a new campaign is starting," Francois Miquet-Marty of pollster Viavoice told Reuters.

"Marine Le Pen is going to frame this as a face-off between Emmanuel Macron, the candidate of the globalised elite, and herself as the people's candidate," he said. "She has a line of attack that can hit the bullseye."

2:51AM

Farage unimpressed with Macron

Nigel Farage has reacted to the French election result, tweeting as Mr Macron addressed his supporters:

"Macron speaking with EU flag behind him. Says it all."

The former Ukip leader was correct in a way - Mr Macron's victory effectively sets up a showdown between his pro-EU camp and the anti-EU Marine le Pen.

Mr Farage was unsurprisingly unimpressed with what Mr Macron had to say.

 Click here for a full round-up of how the world reacted to the election

2:01AM

Market reaction

As investors breathed a collective sigh of relief at what the market regarded as the best of several possible outcomes in the French election, the euro soared 2 percent to $1.09395 when markets opened in Asia before slipping back to around $1.0886.

It was the euro's highest level since November 10, the day after the results of the US presidential election.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 climbed 0.8 percent in early trade, while futures for the 10-year U.S. Treasury note sank 22 ticks.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan tacked on 0.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei jumped 1.4 percent as the yen retreated.

Tim Riddell, an analyst at Westpac, said:

"The rise of the euro and risk appetite rebounding is understandable and this should also see yields in Europe fall, spreads to Bunds tighten and stocks rally.

"However, such gains are likely to be contained when markets reflect upon the marked shift away from the "establishment" and just how effective the new president may be.

1:13AM

Ed Miliband takes swipe at Osborne on Twitter

The former Labour leader has been winning over new followers and fans on Twitter over recent weeks with a strong of zingers and jibes. In his latest salvo, Miliband trolled George Osborne after the former chancellor congratulated Mr Macron: "Congratulations to my friend @EmmanuelMacron. Proof you can win from the centre. At last, the chance for the leadership that France needs."

Miliband responded:

1:04AM

Tensions boil over in Paris

In the French capital, protesters angry at Le Pen's advance - some from anarchist and anti-fascist groups - scuffled with police  in the Place de la Bastille, AP reports. Officers fired tear gas to disperse the rowdy crowd. Two people were injured and police detained three people as demonstrators burned cars, danced around bonfires and dodged riot police.

Le Pen was the main target of their ire, but some were also against Mr Macron's qualification.

"We have come to protest against the masquerade that this election represents," one protester told AFP. 

A demonstrator runs away from tear gas during clashes with police in Paris Credit: AP
People burn litter as they protest in Paris Credit: AP
Anti riot police officers push a group of demonstrators during scufflings in Paris Credit: AP

At a peaceful protest by around 300 people at the Place de la Republique some sang "No Marine and no Macron!" and "Now burn your voting cards."

Macron supporters at his election-day headquarters went wild as polling agency projections showed the ex-finance minister making the runoff, cheering, singing "La Marseillaise" anthem, waving French tricolor and European flags and shouting "Macron, president!"

12:52AM

Fillon under fire

The knives are out for Mr Fillon on the Right. 

Eric Woerth, his campaign coordinator, put it bluntly by saying: "The Right didn't lose, Fillon did."

Nadine Morano, close to Nicolas Sarkozy, said: "It's a catastrophe - a veritable waste.

"François Fillon is in no position to lead the Right in legislative elections."

12:42AM

Media reaction

Here's a snapshot of media reaction to the result.

The Mail hailed it as a new French Revolution.

And The Times called it a humiliation for the French political elite.

 In France, this was Liberation's front page:

 And in Switzerland, Le Temps said the result signalled that the French republic was “broken” and that voters wanted “deep changes”, according to Reuters.

 

12:29AM

Latest results

With 46 million tallied so far, out of  France's 47 million strong electorate, figures from the Interior Ministry put Macron on 23.82 percent of votes and Le Pen on 21.58 percent, conservative Francois Fillon at 19.96 percent, and far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon on 19.49 percent.

11:49PM

Best-ever result for far-Right in France

Ms Le Pen's estimated seven million votes was also the best-ever score for a far-Right party in France.

11:16PM

Latest results

With 76 of 107 departements counted, the results stand at:

  1. Macron 23.17%
  2. Le Pen 22.67%
  3. Mélenchon 19.22%
  4. Fillon 19.14%
  5. Hamon 6.33%
france map

 

10:39PM

Macron stands on brink of French presidency and vows to 'protect, transform and build'

David Chazanreports in Paris:

Many in the rapturous crowd were in their 20s and 30s, energetic young professionals and students who for months devoted evenings and weekends to handing out pamphlets and spreading his message on voters’ doorsteps.

Mr Macron raced on to the stage, hand in hand with his wife, Brigitte, his former drama teacher who is 24 years his senior. Early in the campaign he was forced to deny rumours that he was gay.

“The French people have expressed themselves,” he said. “It is an honour and a responsibility.”

He then paid tribute to the other candidates, naming most of them — but not Ms Le Pen — and thanking them for their messages of support after a campaign “marked by terrorism”.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron kisses his wife Brigitte before addressing his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris Credit: AP

An independent centrist who formed his own movement only a year ago, Mr Macron’s lightning ascent has belied doubts about his ability to win over “la France profonde,” the French heartlands.

He casts himself as an outsider who will shake up France’s traditionally bipartisan politics, but uphold democratic and civilised values against the "extremism" and "xenophobia" of Ms Le Pen.

“In a year, we have changed the face of French politics,” he said. “You have succeeded in convincing people that hope for our country is not a dream… In two weeks, I hope I will be your president, the president of the whole of France, the president of the patriots,” — the term Ms Le Pen uses for her supporters.

Read the full article.

10:15PM

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker congratulates Macron

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated has Emmanuel Macron and wished the centrist well for the May 7 French presidential runoff against anti-EU National Front leader Marine Le Pen, Juncker's spokesman said.

"Juncker congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his result in the first round and wished him all the best for the next round," Margaritis Schinas said on Twitter.

Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Union Credit: EPA

Underlining broad support for Macron among leaders of the European Union institutions in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini from the Italian centre-left added her congratulations to those of Juncker, a centre-right former prime minister of Luxembourg.

"To see the flags of France and the EU hailing Emmanuel Macron's result shows hope and the future of our generation," tweeted Mogherini, 43, after the 39-year-old Macron's first-round victory speech to supporters was broadcast on television. 

10:05PM

The scene from the Le Pen victory rally

Rory Mulholland in Henin-Beaumont reports:

It was in a down-at-heel town in the Front National heartlands of northern France, far from the despised Parisian elite, that Marine Le Pen chose to celebrate the election victory that has brought her just one step away from becoming the country’s next president.

“What is at stake here is the survival of France,” she told a wildly cheering crowd after the results were announced of round one of the most unpredictable and the most high-stakes election in decades.

She was speaking in a sports hall on the edge of the town of Henin-Beaumont, a couple of hours drive north of Paris in the French “rustbelt”, where the coal mines closed long ago and the factories have moved to Eastern Europe or Asia.

Behind the hall, ironically named the “François Mitterrand Centre” after the late Socialist president, lies a giant slag heap, a reminder of the now disappeared mines whose traditionally left-wing workers were won over by Ms Le Pen’s anti-globalisation crusade.

She cast her vote in Henin-Beaumont on Sunday morning, blithely unaware that as she did her civic duty several feminist activists were being arrested outside after jumping out of a car topless and wearing masks of herself and US President Donald Trump.

Then she retired to have an afternoon rest before the nail-biting countdown to the results announcement.

Read the full article.

9:48PM

Macron presidency 'bad news for Britain, the euro and EU'

Analysis from Europe Editor Peter Foster:

For once there was no nasty election surprise for Europe’s political establishment - the pollsters had it spot-on. As predicted, the centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-Right Marine Le Pen will face off for the French presidency.

This news will have been greeted with glee in Brussels where Mr Macron - who is predicted by those same pollsters to win by a comfortable 20-point margin in two weeks time - is seen as a potential saviour of their troubled Union.

With his pledge to strengthen EU external borders with a 5,000 strong force, maintain the Schengen free-travel zone and appoint a finance minister for the eurozone, Mr Macron has pledged to start a “rebirth” of the European project.

But there are several hurdles in the way of Mr Macron before he can crank up Europe’s Franco-German motor, which has been sputtering badly these past two decades because of France’s continued failure to pass serious economic reforms.

To read the full article, CLICK HERE

9:41PM

A good election for the pollsters

If Ipsos' estimates of the final vote are right, the pollsters have had a good election. 

The final polling average had centrist Emmanuel Macron on 24 per cent and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 22.1 per cent. The other two significant candidates,  Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, had 19.6 and 18.9 per cent respectively.

All four of these scores are within 0.5 percentage points of Ipsos' voting estimate that was released as voting closed. If correct, this will grant pollsters some redemption after failing to predict the rise of Brexit and Donald Trump.

French presidential election polling 9:18PM

Macron addresses supporters

Emmanuel Macron raced on to stage, hand in hand with his wife, Brigitte Trogneux.

"The French people have expressed themselves," he says.  “It is an honour and a responsibility.”

He paid tribute to the other candidates, naming them and thanking them for their messages of support after a campaign “marked by terrorism”

 Mr Macron, the youngest candidate to reach the presidential runoff in French history, thanked Mr Fillon and Mr Hamon for their support.

"I want to become the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists," he said, promising to "bring together all French people".

To supporters, he said: "In a year we have changed the face of French politics."

Emmanuel Macron arrives on stage with his wife Brigitte Trogneux to deliver a speech at the Parc des Expositions hall in Paris  Credit:  PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

Macron says he will never forget the energy that the public have put in to ensure his victory. 

"You have showed us that in fact hope for our country was not a bubble or a dream, but a real determined will."

"In two weeks, I hope I will be your president, the president of the whole of France, the president of the patriots,” - the term Marine Le Pen uses to refer to her supporters.

Mr Macron paid tribute to his wife Brigitte.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron kisses his wife Brigitte before addressing his supporters Credit:  Thibault Camus/AP

 

8:56PM

Mélenchon refuses to endorse any other candidate

Far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is regularly compared to Britain's Jeremy Corbyn, is speaking and he's still not conceding. He says he will respect the results once they are certain.

Votes from France's cities, where Mélenchon draws his support, aren't yet in the tally.

He says he will not endorse any candidate for the second round of the election.

Mr  Mélenchon tweeted shortly after that he did not have a mandate to comment on the second round.

 

 

8:50PM

Germany's foreign minister hails projected result

Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has hailed projected results in France's first-round presidential vote putting centrist Emmanuel Macron ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The Social Democrat said he was "sure" Macron would be elected president in the run-off on May 7.

"I'm sure he will sweep away the far-right, right-wing populism and the anti-Europeans in the second round," Mr Gabriel said in a video posted on Twitter during a trip to Jordan's capital Amman, looking ahead to the decisive French presidential run-off on May 7.

The Social Democrat wrote on Twitter: "I'm glad that @EmmanuelMacron is leading the field. He was the only truly pro-European candidate."

Mr Gabriel's party had officially supported beleaguered French Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon - who was projected to finish with only around six percent of the vote - but party officials indicated they were more closely politically aligned with Macron.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not yet reacted to the French results. Her spokesman had said in January that there was "not a single thing in common between the policies defended by (Le Pen's) National Front and those of the chancellor".

 

8:44PM

34 per cent of the vote counted

With 34 percent of the vote counted, France's Interior Ministry says that far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is leading with 24.6 percent of the vote followed by centrist Emmanuel Macron with 21.9 percent.

The early vote count includes primarily rural constituencies that lean to the right, while urban areas that lean left are counted later, so this does not wipe out the earlier projection that has Mr Macron as the frontrunner.

Supporters of far-right leader and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, Marine Le Pen, celebrate  Credit: Frank Augstein/AP

 

8:39PM

Euro surges to highest in six months

Business reporter Tara Cunningham writes: 

The euro surged to its highest level in almost six months minutes after early projections indicated that the runoff for the French presidency would come down to a second-round duel between independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Investors cheered the early projections, which were announced an hour before foreign exchange markets opened in Australia. The single currency, which jumped 1.6pc at the opening bell, quickly extended its gains, soaring by more than 2pc to $1.09395 against the US dollar.

Dean Turner, economist at UBS Wealth Management,  said: “If these projections hold true, there will be some relief among investors that a mainstream candidate made it through to the second round.

“As things stand, Macron is on course to be the next French president, so it is likely that we see a recovery in risk appetite toward French and other European markets.”

It also enjoyed a relief rally against the pound, climbing 1.5pc to 85p per euro. Against the Japanese yen, it leapt 3pc to a five-week high of 120.64.

 

 

8:32PM

Mélenchon calls for restraint

Far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon has called for restraint in a Facebook post where he appears to reject the early results. 

"We don't validate the score announced on the basis of polls," he writes. "The results of the big cities are not yet known. I call for restraint".

 

8:27PM

Francois Hollande congratulates Macron

French president François Hollande has congratulated Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Hollande's office said he had called Mr Macron "to congratulate him" on reaching the runoff in which he will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen, according to projections, but did not explicitly endorse Mr Macron at this point.

8:25PM

George Osborne congratulates 'friend' Macron

 

8:23PM

Flippin' good result for Macron

Twitter users are re-sharing this video from Thursday:

 

8:11PM

Le Pen hails 'historic result' after reaching runoff

French far-Right leader Marine Le Pen has claimed victory in the first-round presidential race and says that her National Front party will represent "the great alternative" to the French people.

With a broad smile, Ms Le Pen has stood before an adoring crowd and pledged to open a much-needed debate on globalisation.

"The first step... has been taken. This result is historic," Le Pen, 48, told supporters in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, declaring it "time to liberate the French people".

"The major issue of this election is runaway globalisation, which is putting our civilisation in danger," she said.

"The French have a very simple choice.

"Either we continue on the path of... offshoring jobs, unfair foreign competition, mass immigration and free movement of terrorists... or you chose France and borders that protect," she added.

Le Pen has followed in the footsteps of her father Jean-Marie, who beat the Socialist candidate for a spot in the second round of the 2002 presidential election.

The elder Le Pen suffered a stinging defeat in the runoff, with the mainstream parties all closing ranks around the conservative, and ultimately victorious, Jacques Chirac.

Her speech ended with the French national anthem.

Marine Le Pen delivers a speech after finishing second of the first round of the French presidential elections in Henin-Beaumont Credit: IAN LANGSDON/EPA

Le Pen has campaigned to leave the European Union, protect France's borders, clamp down on immigration, and expel Islamic extremists.

Her success, along with that of centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron, leaves the May 7 runoff without a mainstream political candidate for the first time in modern French history.

 

8:06PM

... And here come the protests

Protesters angry that far-right leader Marine Le Pen is advancing the French presidential runoff are scuffling with police in Paris.

Crowds of young people, some from anarchist and "anti-fascist" groups, gathered on the Place de la Bastille in eastern Paris as results were coming in from the first-round vote.

French riot police clash with demonstrators Credit:  JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/REUTERS

Police fired tear gas to disperse an increasingly rowdy crowd. Riot police surrounded the area.

Protesters have greeted several of Le Pen's campaign events, angry at her anti-immigration policies and her party, which she has sought to detoxify after a past tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.

A demonstrator lays on the ground during clashes with police after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election, in Paris Credit:  JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/REUTERS

 

8:02PM

Juppé backs Macron

Former Republicans candidate Alain Juppé has given his support to Emmanuel Macron "without hesitation" in the fight against Front National:

7:52PM

Le Pen and Macron fans celebrate poll results

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron supporters celebrate as it is announced their leaders will progress to the second round of the French Presidential election, according to projection:

7:50PM

 Cazeneuve calls on voters to back Macron

France's prime minister has called on voters to support centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron against far-Right rival Marine Le Pen in the country's presidential election.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called for the defeat of Le Pen's National Front party, in comments just after polling agencies projected the two advancing to the May 7 presidential runoff.

The announcement came moments after the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon conceded defeat. If the results hold, it would be the first time in modern French history that no major-party candidate has advanced to the presidential runoff.

7:45PM

Fillion: I will vote for Macron

Francois Fillon is conceding defeat. He has announced his intention to vote for Emmanuel Macron, to prevent Marine Le Pen from becoming president of France.

"This defeat is mine and mine alone. I take full responsibility", said Mr Fillon, who called on the Right to remain united ahead of legislative elections in June.

Alluding to the fake jobs scandal that dogged his campaign, Fillon, once the frontrunner in the race, said he had faced obstacles that were "too numerous, too cruel".

Declaring he would vote for Macron, Fillon said there was "no other option but to vote against the far right".

Francois Fillon concedes at his headquarters in Paris after early results in the first round of 2017 French presidential election Credit: CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS

 

7:44PM

'Huge disappointment for Fillon'

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon's elimination in the first round of the French presidential election is a "huge disappointment", his campaign coordinator said Sunday.

"It's a huge disappointment. The campaign was unable to address the difficulties of the French people and the record of (President) Francois Hollande," said Bruno Retailleau after Mr Fillon failed to finish among the top two candidates.

7:41PM

 'Life is going to change': Macron supporters explode with joy

David Chazan reports from Macron HQ in Paris:

Unknown to the public until two years ago and initially ruled out as a serious contender, Emmanuel Macron now stands on the threshold of the French presidency.

Thousands of his supporters and campaigners exploded with joy at a hall in western Paris, waving tricolour French flags and singing the national anthem, La Marseillaise, when the first partial results were announced.

If Mr Macron goes on to win the May 7 runoff against the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, as predicted by the polls, the fresh-faced 39-year-old political novice will be France’s first president from outside an established party in nearly a century.

Emmanuel Macron's supporters cheer following the announcement he was on course to qualify for the second round Credit: PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP

An independent centrist who formed his own movement only a year ago, Mr Macron’s lightning ascent has belied doubts about his ability to win over “la France profonde,” the French heartlands.

He casts himself as an outsider who will shake up France’s traditionally bipartisan politics, but uphold democratic and civilised values against the "extremism" and "xenophobia" of Ms Le Pen.

Olivier Lecerf, 58, an advertising executive, said: “I’m really happy. His trajectory has been absolutely incredible. He’s created a political start-up and a completely new model. Throughout the campaign, he’s been attacked with a barrage of fake news and I’m glad that the French people have able to make their own mature judgement.”

A screen announces the results of the first round of the French Presidential Elections naming Founder and Leader of the political movement 'En Marche !' Emmanuel Macron with 23.7 per cent of the vote at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles  Credit: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images Europe

Rachel-Flore Pardo, 23, a law student who for months has spent her free time handing out Mr Macron’s pamphlets and talking to voters on their doorsteps, said: “This is wonderful for us. All the work we’ve done has paid off.”

Eric Beala, 35, a computer engineer, said: “When I started working with his campaign a year ago, there wern’t many of us. Now there are a lot more. Life is going to change. This is a man who isn’t a traditional French politician. This is more American-style — I mean Obama, not Trump.”

A grinning Mr Macron waved to a crowd of jubilant supporters from the roof of his campaign headquarters. Thousands waiting for Mr Macron to appear at a hall in western Paris cheered and clapped when giant TV screens showed the conservative candidate, François Fillon, who was eliminated, calling on his supporters to vote for Mr Macron in the second round rather than Ms Le Pen.

7:34PM

Elimination of the mainstream 'shows the deep malaise of French society': Mayor of Lyon

The elimination of the two mainstream French parties from the first round of presidential elections showed the deep malaise of French society, a member of centrist Emmanuel Macron's campaign says.

"When Macron started his campaign, they said that somebody who was not part of a major political party could not win the election. The fact that he did win shows a deep malaise in French society," French senator Gerard Collomb, mayor of Lyon, said on France 2 television.

7:30PM

Wild response from Le Pen supporters

Rory Mulholland reports from Henin-Beaumont:

Rapturous applause and wild cheering broke out as Marie Le Pen fans at her northern redoubt of Henin-Beaumont when they learned she had made it through to the second round of the presidential election.

"She's the only one who has the solutions to change France," said one young supporter who gave her name as Amélie.

The crowd waved French tricolour flags and banners saying "Marine Présidente" and sang the national anthem and then chanted "On a gagné!" (We've won!).

They then waited for the candidate to arrive to make her victory speech and galvanise her voters for the second and final round on May 7.

 

7:20PM

Hamon: Vote for Macron

In fifth place with a paltry 6.2 per cent of the vote, the Socialist Party's official candidate Benoît Hamon has called on his supporters to vote for Emmanuel Macron even if he "doesn't represent the Left", to block Marine Le Pen.

"I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic," he said. 

On the other side of the traditional political spectrum, former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a member of defeated candidate Francois Fillon's The Republicans party, said: "Without hesitation, as far as I'm concerned we've got to rally behind Emmanuel Macron."

7:17PM

Data suggests Macron will beat Le Pen in the second round

Here's a nifty chart from Telegraph data journalist Ashley Kirk on what happens next:

If the second round is indeed a race between Macron and Le Pen, as the first results suggest, Macron is widely tipped to take the French presidency.

According to recent polling by Elabe, he would take 65 per cent of the vote in a second-round run-off against Le Pen. 

It is expected that Macron - a centrist - should be able to attract a wider spectrum of second-round voters than Le Pen, pulling in left-leaning voters from Hamon and Mélenchon as well as those leaning to the right that voted Fillon in the first round.

Macron v Le Pen second round scenario 7:16PM

Euro expected to surge

The euro is expected to surge when FX markets open in Sydney at 8pm, after French centrist Emmanuel Macron came out on top in the first round of France's presidential election. 

Early indications from Reuters data show the euro soaring to a four-week high of $1.09 against the dollar, up from Friday's close of $1.0726.

7:15PM

'Expect a very competitive race'

Mujtaba Rahman, head of Europe practice at the Eurasia Group risk consultancy, said that he now expects a "very competitive" race between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen.

 Speaking to The Telegraph he said: "Although there is relief that at least one mainstream candidate has made it into the runoff, Le Pen will now turn the second round into a referendum on the status quo.

"Macron will be forced to defend immigration, the EU and openness, and these are all things French voters have become more suspicious of in recent years. We now expect a very competitive race over the next two weeks."

7:14PM

All over for Hamon

The empty podium of French presidential election candidate for the left-wing French Socialist party Benoit Hamon  Credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP

7:12PM

Belgian PM congratulates Macron

 "Warm congratulations and best wishes of success for the European project"

7:02PM

Projections give it to Le Pen and Macron

Emmanuel Macron on 23.7 per cent and Le Pen on 21.7 per cent says Ipsos/Sopra STeria

6:57PM

Le Pen fans singing La Marseillaise

 

6:53PM

Less than 10 minutes to go...

Until we get the first indication of who is going to win. There's no exit polls this year, rather an early count of a percentage of the votes to indicate who is in the lead. 

Hang onto your seats...

An official counts a ballot showing the name of Marine Le Pen at a polling station in Tulle, central France Credit:  REGIS DUVIGNAU/ REUTERS

 

6:51PM

Flags for everyone in Henin-Beaumont

Supporters of Emmanuel Macron wait for his arrival at the Parc des Expositions hall in Paris Credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

 

6:48PM

Macron 'to win 24 per cent'

According to Belgian media, citing polls, Emmanuel Macron is on 24 per cent but "suspense is total" concerning who he will face in the runoff, with the three other leading candidates on between 18-20 per cent.

We're in for a nail-biting night! 

6:40PM

Q: Do the Tories want France to leave the EU?

While we eagerly anticipate the results, we'll take a moment to answer a reader question. This one comes from reader Geraldine Bird:

"Do you know if the Tories actually want France to leave the EU?"

Very good question. Peter Foster, Our Europe Editor, says:

In a word? 'No'. Theresa May and her ministers have been very clear that they don't want to find themselves negotiating a Brexit deal, on a very tight Article 50 timetable, with a disintegrating European Union.

Mrs May was explicit on this point when giving her big Lancaster House Brexit speech back in January. 

She said:  "I know many [in Europe] fear that this [Brexit] might herald the beginning of a greater unravelling of the EU. But let me be clear: I do not want that to happen. It would not be in the best interests of Britain. It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain's national interest that the EU should succeed."

6:36PM

Macron supporters in Paris in high spirits 

Supporters of French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron rally at his election day headquarters in Paris Credit: Thibault Camus/ AP

6:34PM

'Sober mood' at Fillon HQ

 

6:27PM

Excitement building in Henin-Beaumont

 

6:25PM

The counting begins

The counting has started and the first of the polling stations have now closed

Officials empty a ballot box at the start of counting at a polling station in Tulle Credit:  REGIS DUVIGNAU/REUTERS

6:09PM

Marseille terror plot suspects formally charged 

The two men suspected of plotting an "imminent" attack ahead of France's presidential election were charged Sunday with terror offences, prosecutors said.

The foiled plot in Marseille sparked fears that the closing days of the campaign could be a target for extremists ahead of Sunday's first round of voting in the country's most unpredictable election in decades.

Elite police and intelligence agents arrested the two Frenchmen - 23-year-old Clement Baur and Mahiedine Merabet, 29 - on Tuesday in the Mediterranean port city.

Paris prosecutors said the men are accused of participating in a terrorist conspiracy as well as weapons charges.

After searching the suspects' shared Marseille apartment, authorities said they uncovered an Uzi sub-machine gun, pistols, three kilogrammes (6.5 pounds) of TATP explosives and a homemade grenade as well as an Islamic State group flag.

Police had been searching for them since April 12 following the interception of a video in which they pledged allegiance to IS.

The men had used a number of aliases, switched mobile phones frequently and used pre-paid bank cards to evade police.

Two days after the arrests, 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi shot dead a policeman on Paris's Champs Elysees avenue before being killed by police gunfire.

6:02PM

One hour to go to find out if traditional politics dissolving before our eyes

Peter Foster, Our Europe Editor writes:

With only an hour to go until the results of the French Presidential first round are declared, the initial forecasting and some private polling indicators suggest that the run-off will, as the polls predicted, be between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

 If that does indeed turn out to be the case, it could be tempting to see a Macron - Le Pen run-off as in some way predictable, since the pre-vote pollsters will have been proved right.

But that would be to lose sight of the bigger picture - that for the first time since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958,  neither  of the two mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties (the Socialists and Republican parties) will have reached the run-off.

That will another massive sign that - as elections have shown in Austria, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain in recent times - the traditional centre-ground of European politics is dissolving before our eyes into a ill-defined mish-mash of personality and identity politics.

In an hour's time we'll find out if that is the case in France too.

5:35PM

There's still time to vote

French voters can still cast a ballot until 7pm (6pm BST) or 8pm in the cities 

5:03PM

Fancy a Le Pen pen?

4:54PM

Macron in the lead, Belgian media claims

"Several" polls cited by Belgian media RTBF, which doesn't need to abide by French rules, suggest that Emmanuel Macron is in the lead, with the three other candidates "neck and neck" behind...

4:38PM

Ifop predicts 81 per cent participation

Polling institute Ifop has published an estimate of what it thinks the final turnout will be, at a very reasonable 81 per cent. 

French election 2017 turnout estimate

While higher than the 79.5 per cent turnout in 2012 that saw François Hollande elected, it is around the average seen in French presidential elections. 

Five of the nine elections since the first direct presidential election in 1965 have seen a higher turnout than this. 

Abstention

Two surveys published on Sunday suggest the final abstention rate is likely to be around 20 per cent, broadly in line with that of five years ago.

A survey from Harris Interactive estimated the final abstention rate at 21.5 percent, while one from Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match and CNews put the abstention rate at 19 percent.

The abstention rate was 20.52 percent in 2012, according to interior ministry figures. 

4:32PM

Confounding the polls

Credit: Le Parisien

In this cartoon from Le Parisien, a man says to a woman: "We're voting today"

She replies: "I'd like to confound the polls but they've already taken that into account by saying they don't know who people are going to vote for."

4:23PM

Media flocks to Marine Le Pen's heartland

Rory Mulholland is in Henin-Beaumont:

Hundreds of journalists from around world are queuing to get in to the hall where Marine Le Pen is due to make her speech tonight after her victory or defeat in the first round poll. 

The hall is in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, where she has a home and where she voted this morning. 

Henin-Beaumont is in a Front National heartland, a "rustbelt" where the coal mines closed long ago and the factories moved abroad. 

Many of Ms Le Pen's voters are people who previously voted leftwing but have switched to her far-Right party, after feeling let down or ignored by the ruling Socialist party. 

One irony that must be galling for Ms Le Pen is that the hall where she is to speak this evening is called the "François Mitterrand Centre" after the late Socialist president. 

4:07PM

Voter turnout higher than expected

Voter turnout at 5pm French time was 69.42 per cent, slightly down on the last presidential elections in 2012 at this stage, which was 70.59 per cent, but still higher than previously expected.

4:06PM

Trump: French election 'very interesting'

Donald Trump is watching...

 He weighed in a little more strongly on Friday after the Champs Élysées attack:

3:55PM

Le Pen's poster faux pas

Henry Samuel, in Parisreports:

Front National leader Marine Le Pen's party made a faux pas abroad by failing to deliver posters in time for them to appear outside polling stations, the French foreign ministry has said. 

"The posters for the candidate Marine Le Pen were not provided so the corresponding poster board is empty," the ministry said.

"The posters are printed by the candidates themselves and it is up to them to hand them in to the electoral commission before the deadline [of 10 April]."

France has around 1.3 voters registered voters abroad - around 2 per cent of the total electorate.

From the photographs, it appears candidate posters don't fare so well in any case...

The posters of Presidential Candidates Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen, Benoit Hamon and Jean Luc Melenchon on the eve of the first round of the French presidential election, in Tulle Credit:  REGIS DUVIGNAU/ REUTERS
An election poster from Marine Le Pen from the Front National party has been defaced with the words 'Nazi'  Credit: Michael Debets/Pacific/Barcroft
rotesters put stickers on a Marine Le Pen's campaign poster during a protest against far-right Front National (FN) party in Paris

 

3:53PM

#Fakenews: Embassy in London defends queue times

Despite the daunting pictures, the French Embassy in London has tweeted that the waiting time to  vote is one to one and a half hours.

 

3:39PM

But why am I reading this?

Why does the French election matter? If you're coming into to this without too much background, which is totally understandable given Britain's facing it's own election in a matter of weeks, here's just a few reasons why the French election is worth paying attention to:

Risk of 'Frexit'

Most of the 11 candidates are campaigning against the European Union, blamed for myriad woes. Two with a chance at the presidency, far-right Marine Le Pen and far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, could seek to pull France out of the union and its shared euro currency altogether.

A French exit of either would be far more far-reaching than Britain's - it could spell death for the EU, the euro and the whole idea of European unity borne from the blood of World War II. France is a founding member of the EU, and its main driver along with former rival Germany.

Financial markets are already jittery over a possible Frexit, fearing controls on money transfers, capital flight, a plague of defaults and lawsuits on bonds and contracts. Ms Le Pen's team downplays apocalyptic scenarios, arguing that the euro is headed for a breakup eventually anyway.

Ms Le Pen and Mr Melenchon also blame free trade pacts for killing French jobs and want to renegotiate them, which would cause a financial tangle for the rest of the EU and France's trade partners.

Trump and populism 

If Ms Le Pen or Mr Melenchon reach the second round, it will be seen as a clear victory for the populist wave reflected by the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit. Many French workers who have lost out because of globalisation are similarly fed up with establishment parties and especially attracted by promises of ditching the status quo.

Alternatively, if neither candidate makes it past Sunday's first round into the May 7 runoff, that's a clear message that populist nationalism is receding.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon are committed to European unity and would reform labor rules but not make any drastic moves. Mr Macron has framed himself as a bulwark against Trump's protectionism.

Assad's Syria and Putin's Russia

A nuclear power with a seat on the UN Security Council and tens of thousands of troops around the world, France is a key US ally in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) group and major diplomatic player.

Mr Macron would likely keep up the French operations against extremists in Iraq and Syria and Africa's Sahel region - and keep up pressure on Russia over Ukraine and its actions to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The other three front-runners, on the other hand, had supported restoring dialogue with Assad to find a political solution for Syria. Ms Le Pen firmly backs Assad and distanced herself from Trump over recent US airstrikes targeting Assad's regime.

Ms Le Pen also met recently with President Vladimir Putin and would push for lifting sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Mr Fillon too has been friendly with Mr Putin in the past, but has taken a harder stance lately - notably since chemical weapon attack blamed on Assad's forces. 

3:26PM

A breakdown of scenarios 

The Crosstab, an election data and political statistics blog run by George Elliott Morris has created this breakdown of  possible scenarios in rounds one and two of the election. They've done this by running simulations based on the results of a collection of polls. Their estimates all point to Emmanuel Macron becoming French president. 

Credit: http://www.thecrosstab.com

If you're confused at all about how this works, here's the Telegraph's simple explainer of how the French presidential election works:

How the French presidential election works

 

3:06PM

Meanwhile in London... Huge queues to vote

From London to Berlin, Washington to Tel Aviv, French voters lined up at polling stations abroad to cast their ballots.

Around 1.3 million French people abroad are registered to vote - representing around two percent of the total electorate.

In London - often called the sixth biggest French city - hundreds of people queued up outside the two polling stations well before they opened on Sunday, with some waiting up to two hours to vote.

French citizens in the UK queue to vote in the French election at the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle, South Kensington Credit:  Fiona Hanson

"In London, we're expecting perhaps 50,000 voters, so it's going to be a busy day," said Edouard De Guitaut, in charge of a polling station at a French school in London's upmarket South Kensington.

"I have dual nationality, so I voted against Brexit. I think it's really important to vote everywhere, because I'm affected everywhere," said student Elise Lauriot Prevost.

French citizens in the UK queue to vote in the French election at the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle, South Kensington Credit: Fiona Hanson

One brave voter had just finished the London Marathon:

2:59PM

Sisters are doin it for themselves

More pictures from the polls today. This time it's nuns exercising their right to vote... 

A Benedictine sister of the Sainte-Cecile Abbey casts her ballot at a polling station in Solesmes, northwestern France Credit: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP
Orthodox nuns after casting their vote at the French Consulate in Jerusalem, Israel
A nun of the Monastic of the Fraternities of Jerusalem casts her ballot at a polling station in Le Mont-Saint-Michel, northwestern France Credit:  CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP

 

2:39PM

Les Chiens join in the fun!

There's not many things we love more at the Telegraph than pictures of dogs at polling stations. Here are some of our favourite democratic hounds today...

A woman carries her dog as she cast her vote at a polling booth in Lyon Credit: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP
A woman with ger dog votes at a polling station in Lyon Credit: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP
A dog waits outsode a polling booth as his owner prepares to cast his ballot in Caen, northwestern France Credit:  CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP
Emmanuel Macron strokes a dog after casting his ballot Credit: Thibault Camus/ AP
A dog waits as its owner participates in the first round of 2017 French presidential election in Nice Credit: ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS

2:28PM

Shooting in western France ‘not terror related’, as false alerts see several polling stations evacuated 

From David Chazan in Paris:

A man was injured by gunfire in Rouen, western France, as million of French voters cast their ballots in the presidential election, three days after the murder of a policeman in Paris.

Local media reported that the man was injured in the legs and rushed to hospital after “at least two shots” were fired in the city centre. The shooter was reported to be on the run.

Initial reports suggested that the incident was not terror-related but arose from a dispute between two people who knew each other.

Earlier security scares led to the evacuation of several polling stations around the country but all turned out to be false alerts.

Voting was briefly suspended at two polling stations in the eastern town of Besançon after a car was driven very slowly towards one of them, and then abandoned with its engine running.

A rifle was found inside, but Le Parisien newspaper reported that it was not terror-related but a “common law case”.

In Saint-Omer, northern France, two polling stations were evacuated and a security cordon was set up after a suspicious car was spotted, the Voix du Nord newspaper reported. Bomb disposal experts checked the car and gave the all-clear.

In Haguenau, eastern France, a cool box was found with electrical wires protruding from it about 60 metres from a polling station. Water was sprayed on it and it was found to be empty.

Army soldiers patrol past posters showing faces of the candidates for the first-round presidential election near a polling station in Paris Credit: Emilio Morenatti/AP

In Paris, a polling station in the 20th arrondissement was briefly closed after a car considered suspicious was parked nearby. It was checked and voting resumed after about 20 minutes.

Turnout at noon was 28.54 per cent, a slight increase from the first round of the previous presidential election in 2012.

About 55,000 police officers are guarding polling stations after a Paris policeman was shot dead on the Champs-Elysées on Thursday in an attack claimed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) group. 

2:24PM

Who will win in France's bellwether town that always backs the winning president?

Paris correspondent Henry Samuel visited Donzy this week to find out which way the wind was blowing:

As the countdown commences to France's most unpredictable presidential election in modern times, a small town in deepest Burgundy has become the focus of intense national scrutiny because it always reflects the national vote.

Donzy, population 1660, is France's electoral equivalent of Basildon, seen as Britain's ultimate political bellwether, having voted for the winning party at each general election since it became a constituency in 1974.

Surrounded by farms producing goat's cheese and foie gras, the medieval town is in many ways textbook "France profonde", boasting a church, two doctors, a butcher, two bakers, three cafes, three schools and a retirement home. There are two factories making drinking straws and umbrellas on the outskirts and a football pitch. 

Since 1981, Donzy has reflected the French vote in seven presidential elections with sometimes pinpoint accuracy.

CLICK HERE to read the Henry's full dispatch and find out who the residents of Donzy are likely to vote for. 

2:19PM

What does the French election mean for Brexit?

As the French go to the polls in a crucial election, the Telegraph's Europe editor Peter Foster explains why the outcome will have decisive impact on the UK's Brexit negotiations:

1:38PM

Bonjour tout le monde! 

Welcome to the Telegraph's live coverage of the first round of the French presidential election. Our correspondents in France are Henry Samuel and David Chazan in Paris and Rory Mulholland in Henin-Beaumont. They are joined by assistant foreign news editor Louise Burke in London, who will also field any questions you have via email: louise.burke@telegraph.co.uk.

We're excited to keep you up to date with  all the thrills and spills of Sunday evening as the results come in. We'll also be sharing live analysis from Europe Editor Peter Foster a little later in the afternoon. 

12:52PM

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron leading the race as polls open

Rory Mulhollandreports from Paris:

Polls have opened in the first round of France’s most unpredictable and high-stakes presidential election in decades, with far-Right leader Marine Le Pen and the maverick centrist Emmanuel Macron leading the field.

A Le Pen victory could lead to the collapse of the European Union, experts warn, but after the victory of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in Britain most agree that there is no safe bet in the French race.

Marine Le Pen casts her vote in the first round of voting on Sunday Credit: IAN LANGSDON/EPA

Unprecedented security measures were in place to keep voters safe as they cast their ballots, with 50,000 police officers and 7,000 soldiers deployed across the country.

Voting began just three days after a French jihadist shot dead a policeman on the Champs Elysées in Paris, fuelling pre-election jitters and pushing security and terror back to the top of the political agenda.

French Election - Latest Poll Average

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) claimed the attack, as it has done for a series of assaults in France that began in early 2015 and cost the lives of more than 230 people.

At a polling station in a primary school on Rue Martel in the trendy 10th arrondissement of Paris, there were no police on duty and no security checks. 

A Femen activist wearing the mask of U.S President Donald Trump is detained as she demonstrates in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, where far-right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was voting Credit: Michel Spingler /AP

Parisians doing their civic duty there before shopping for lunch said they were undeterred by terror threats. 

"I'm 85 and I lived through the war and the Nazi occupation, so I'm not scared," said Gerard Samson, a retired film-maker. 

Mr Samson said he had been a life-long supporter of the Socialist party but, as the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has little chance of getting elected, he was conflicted. 

Profile | Emmanuel Macron

"This is the first time I have had to hesitate"  before casting his ballot, he said, declining to say who he had plumped for. 

There are 11 candidates in the running for Sunday’s first round, including a pair of Trotskyists, three fringe nationalists, a former shepherd, and a man who wants to colonise Mars.

French presidential election 2017 - in pictures

But there are just four who stand a chance of getting through to the run-off on May 7: Ms Le Pen, Mr Macron, the communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc-Mélenchon, and the scandal-scarred conservative François Fillon.

The pair who will square off for the second round will be known at around 7pm UK when projections based on partial results will be announced. 

Francois Fillon, member of the Republicans political party of the French centre-right, casts his vote Credit: Christophe Archambault/ REUTERS

One of the last opinion polls before campaigning was brought to an early halt by the killing of the policeman in Paris showed that Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron were tied on 23 per cent, with both Mr Mélenchon on 19.5 per cent and Mr Fillon on 19 per cent snapping at their heels.

But due to the margin of error pollsters factor in, any pair from those four could make it through to the second round to battle it out to replace the deeply unpopular Socialist President François Hollande, who failed to end mass unemployment or turn around the country’s ailing economy.

Profile | Marine Le Pen

The uncertainty is heightened by polls showing that one in three of the 47 million registered voters remained undecided just days before the vote.

The results of the French elections are being keenly watched across the world, with many experts predicting that a victory by Ms Le Pen, 48, who says she will pull France out of the euro, might spark chaos in the financial markets and could lead to the collapse of the EU.

Chart: French election second-round scenarios

If Ms Le Pen or Mélenchon - who both rail against globalisation - make it to the runoff, this will be seen as a victory for the populist wave reflected by the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit. But if neither candidate makes it through, that would be interpreted as a clear sign that populist nationalism is finally receding.

Mr Trump weighed in to the French political debate after the Paris attack on Thursday, saying the shooting would "probably help" the anti-EU and anti-immigrant Ms Le Pen because she is "strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France."

Profile | Jean-Luc Mélenchon

"Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election," he said of the candidate who said that she will hold a referendum on taking France out of the EU if the bloc doesn’t carry out radical reform.

Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, came out for Mr Macron, telling the 39-year-old former Socialist finance minister in a phone call he should “work hard all the way through because you never know, it might be that last day of campaigning that makes all the difference."

French election demographic polling

Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and founder of her Front National party, made it through to the second round of the 2002 presidential election but was then crushed by the conservative Jacques Chirac after both left- and right-wing voters rallied together to keep the far-Right leader out of the Elysée. 

Profile | François Fillon

Polls predict that this will likely happen again if Ms Le Pen reaches the May 7 runoff, but this would be complicated if she were up against Mr Mélenchon, 65, whose old-school socialist agenda is anathema to many centrist and conservative voters.

Intelligence services have warned that riots could break out in cities across France after results of the first round are announced on Sunday evening.

French nationals queue up outside the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle in London on April 23, 2017 Credit: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP

Trouble is almost certain if the pair squaring off for the second round are Ms Le Pen and Mr Mélenchon, they said.

An intelligence report leaked to Le Parisien newspaper spoke of “public disturbances in the case of the presence [in the second round] of parties which are said to be extremist,” a reference to Ms Le Pen and Mr Mélenchon.

“In this case, protests are almost certainly to be expected,” said the document, which also warned of farmers, hospital staff and students taking to the streets to protest the results.

French election grid

 

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