Macron, Le Pen qualify for runoff election, incumbent pulls ahead
The French elections are heading off to the runoff round with the two top candidates, incumbent President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, making it to the April 24 round.
Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen led the polls during the first round of the French presidential elections on Sunday, with a slight lead for Macron, who won 28.1-29.7%, around 5% more than Le Pen's 23.3-24.7%.
The top two candidates will face each other in the second round set for April 24, projections by polling firms for French television channels said based on a sample of votes.
The other candidates, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Eric Zemmour, Valerie Pecresse, and Yannick Jadot received 20.1%, 7.2%, 5%, and 4.4%, respectively.
The duel set to take place between the top two candidates is likely to be far tighter than the run-off between the two five years ago in 2017 when Macron took the lead and became President with 66% of the vote.
Some 48.7 million voters were eligible to vote in the election, and the projections are based on a sample of votes compiled by polling companies in the country, which have proven to be trustworthy in the past.
The president has so far garnered support from several opponents, mainly left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came in third place and called on his supporters and the French public to pivot away from the extremist.
"We know who we will never vote for... Not a single vote must go to Mrs. Le Pen," Melenchon said at his party headquarters in Paris, though he did not explicitly ask for his supporters to back the incumbent president.
Another boost for the President also came from his other opponents. Communist Party candidate Fabien Roussel, Socialist Anne Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot of the Greens, and right-wing Republican candidate Valerie Pecresse said they would vote for him to prevent the far-right leader from coming to power.
Only fellow far-right candidate Eric Zemmour voiced support for his counterpart that will be making it to the runoff election, when he urged his supporters to vote for Marine Le Pen on April 24.
"I don't make a mistake over who my opponents are. I call on my voters to vote for Marine Le Pen," Zemmour told supporters following his elimination from the electoral race.