Macron and Le Pen through to final round of France’s presidential election, estimates suggest
By Bryony Jones and Hilary Clarke
(CNN) — Polls have closed in France’s bitterly divisive presidential election. Early projections suggest Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have made it through to the second round runoff.
According to estimates from CNN affiliate BFMTV and polling company Elabe, centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron secured 24% of the vote, with National Front leader Marine Le Pen close behind on 21.8%.
BFMTV and Elabe suggest scandal-hit conservative François Fillon and far-left wildcard Jean-Luc Mélenchon secured 19.9% and 19.3% of the vote respectively, and have been knocked out of the closely-fought race.
A huge cheer went up at Macron’s campaign headquarters as the news came through.
“France’s political map is tonight redrawn,” said CNN’s Melissa Bell, who was at the scene.
“It’s a political earthquake in this country and in Europe,” veteran journalist Christine Ockrent told CNN. “Macron’s is a remarkable achievement, because he represents optimism.”
Sunday’s first round contest was held under tight security after a terror attack in Paris Thursday night disrupted the final day of campaigning Friday.
By 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) 69.42% of France’s 47 million registered voters had cast their ballots, according to the Interior Ministry — a marginally lower turnout than at the same point in 2012.
With 11 names on the ballot, no one candidate is expected to win an outright majority, meaning the top two candidates will face a second and final ballot on May 7.
That means France could end up with a choice between candidates from the far-left and far-right, or a far-right stalwart facing off against a political novice.
The incumbent President, fellow socialist François Hollande, whose approval ratings have remained in the doldrums for several years, made the unusual decision not to run for a second term.
Independent centrist Macron, 39, a former banker, has never held elected office, though he served as economy minister under Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
But he attracted support from left and right with promises to boost the economy and improve security. His party, “En Marche!” which was only created in September, now has more than 200,000 members and his meetings have attracted vast crowds.
Far-right National Front leader Le Pen, 48, is best known for her anti-immigration rhetoric; she told supporters her first move as president would be to impose a temporary ban on legal immigration to France. She has also vowed to take France out of the European Union.
Fillon, the mainstream Republican candidate, was an early favorite for the presidency, but his campaign stumbled because of a scandal over claims he paid his wife and children for work they did not do. He denies any wrongdoing.
Far-left firebrand Mélenchon’s popularity surged in the final weeks of the race, following impressive performances in the candidates’ television debates.
CNN’s James Masters, Saskya Vandoorne, Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.