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France's Political Parties Are Banding Together To Stop Le Pen

“This result is historic,” the National Front leader declared as votes were tallied.

24/04/2017 6:05 AM IST | Updated 24/04/2017 8:34 PM IST

After a heated presidential election, French independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen will face each other in a runoff election on May 7.

With 97 percent of the vote in, Macron leads with 23.9 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 21.4 percent. Conservative Republican party leader François Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon were narrowly edged out of the final round, with 19.9 and 19.6 percent of the vote respectively.

“This result is historic,” Le Pen said on Sunday evening, surrounded by celebrating supporters. The far-right leader repeated her vow to tighten France’s borders that rampant globalization was putting French civilization at risk. She also renewed her calling to curb immigration, adding that the vote would present the French a choice between a safe country or “the free circulation of terrorists.” 

Amid fears of Le Pen’s anti-European Union and anti-immigrant vision taking hold over the country, French and European politicians began throwing their support behind Macron almost immediately after Sunday’s results were announced. Figures across the political spectrum came together to back Macron, appearing to form a “cordon sanitaire” against the prospect of a Le Pen presidency. 

“In one year we have changed the face of French politics,” Macron said on Sunday evening. “I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists.”

In his concession speech, conservative candidate for The Republicans and former Prime Minister François Fillon called on supporters to vote for Macron. “This defeat is mine and it is for me and me alone to bear it,” Fillon said. “Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right.” 

  
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
The runoff in France's presidential election on May 7 is a landmark moment in the country's political history. 

Benoit Hamon, the candidate for the ruling Socialist Party who suffered a crushing defeat on Sunday, also threw his weight behind the centrist candidate. “I appeal to fight the National Front as strongly as possible by voting for Emmanuel Macron, even though he doesn’t belong to the left,” Hamon said

He was joined in his appeal by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. “The presence of a candidate of the extreme-right in the second round of the presidential election, 15 years after the shock of April 2002, calls for a clear and strong position from all Republicans. That’s the reason why I’m calling on them to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election to defeat the National Front,” Cazeneuve said in a statement.

The opposition to Le Pen from a wide swath of France’s politicians and parties is reminiscent of the last time the National Front entered the second round, in 2002. Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, then head of the party, was soundly defeated after voters from the left and right rallied against him.

Le Pen’s opponents hope she will suffer her father’s fate. While she has worked hard to make the party’s program more acceptable to a wide array of voters than it was under her father’s leadership, polls still predict Macron to comfortably win the matchup. 

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
“I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists,” Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday evening. 

Throughout the race, Macron’s pro-EU stance has also found favor in Brussels and Berlin, while his campaign accused the Kremlin-funded media outlets of trying to interfere in the vote. European leaders on Sunday did not hesitate to congratulate him on the result. 

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman issued a statement wishing Macron “all the best.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel congratulated Macron on Twitter, wishing him success in an “optimistic” European project. 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also expressed good wishes. 

Thibaud Moritz/IP3 via Getty Images
Conservative candidate Fillon urged his supporters to vote for Macron in the second round of the election. 

Far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the only front-runner who refused to endorse Macron on Sunday. Like Le Pen, Mélenchon is a staunch critic of the European Union and various other international institutions.

Mélenchon’s refusal to support Macron may potentially cost the centrist candidate crucial votes from the left in the runoff. 

Some of Mélenchon’s supporters appeared bitter on Sunday night. 

“I am staying home. The game is over, Macron is president already. I have no job. Macron, Le Pen, all the same,” Fahrid, a 37-year-old voter told Reuters. Fahrid said he would not vote in the second round. 

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