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French Presidential Elections Could Impact Europe

In: Finance, Forex

In a re-run of their 2017 contest, President Emmanuel Macron is set to face his nationalist rival Marine Le Pen in the final round of the French election that will reverberate across Europe.

Macron told his supporters in a short speech on Sunday night: “The game isn’t over yet…”

Three surveys showed him leading by at least 54% to 46% while others showed a narrower lead. European stock futures dropped on polls showing a tight race.

According to interior ministry figures based on 97% of registered voters counted, Macron got 27.6% of the vote compared with 23.4% for Le Pen. Snap polls taken after voting ended gave the 44-year-old president a narrow advantage heading into a runoff on April 24.

The president’s perceived arrogance turns off many voters and helped Le Pen to frame him as “the president of the rich,” he has made France a favored destination for foreign investors and pushed employment to the highest on record. He’s also been at the forefront of efforts to halt the war in Ukraine, to deepen economic ties between European Union members and, as leader of the bloc’s most powerful military, to forge a common defense policy.

President Macron had avoided explicit campaigning until close to the vote, instead, casting himself as a safe pair of hands during unstable times as he focused on the Ukraine crisis. His key asset heading into the election is a strong economic record and high employment.

Le Pen supporters were buoyant on Sunday night, singing the French national anthem as the initial projections were released showing she’d eclipsed her first-round result from 2017. She campaigned hard across the country on the cost-of-living crisis, tapping into concerns about inflation.

She told the cheering crowd: “All of those who didn’t vote for Emmanuel Macron today, of course, should join this movement, I call on the French people from the left or the right, of whatever origin, to join this great national and popular movement.”

Le Pen’s protectionist stance on economic issues has allowed her to reach some voters who have traditionally backed left-wing candidates and have been angered by Macron’s support for business and investment.

The critical pool is likely to be the 22% of voters who backed Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left firebrand who came third. In a concession speech, Melenchon told his supporters they should give “not one vote” to Le Pen but he did not endorse Macron.

The decisive factor will be a presidential debate scheduled for April 20. Le Pen’s 2017 campaign was effectively sunk by a disastrous performance in that year’s televised head-to-head and she has been working with advisers to ensure she’s better prepared this time around.

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