The independent liberal progressive Emmanuel Macron is currently heading the first round of the French presidential election with 23.75% of the votes, while far-right, anti-EU Marine Le Pen is following with 21.53%.  After the first round on 23 April, the second and last round will be held on 7 May between Le Pen and Macron. The final results will be announced at 8pm (7pm UK time) on 7 May.

Described as a “French John F. Kennedy”, Macron emerged as the clear favourite to become the next French president. On Sunday, appearing in front of crowds chanting “Macron Président”, Macron told his supporters: “I want to be the president of all the people of France, for the patriots facing the threat of nationalism.”

Traditional political parties were marginalised and most presidential candidates were defeated in the first round, something that will force their supporters to vote for Macron instead of Le Pen.

Political response

Theresa May, who had invited Macron to Downing Street during his campaign and was criticised by Le Pen, is avoiding comment on the elections. May’s spokesman stressed the “longstanding policy of not commenting on ongoing elections in other countries”.

European Union and European parliament officials are openly backing Macron for his pro-European position and won’t support Le Pen because, as EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas put it, she “seeks its destruction.” The president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani also commented on the election, saying that far-right Le Pen will lose, and that the EU might need improvement “but that doesn’t mean to destroy it.”

Macron represents hope for the EU and his win is significant for the European project. As the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU + social market economy.” The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, called Macron a “patriot and European” saying that “France must remain European.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis is also backing Macron and he hopes that Macron’s victory in the presidential election will halt the rise of far-right populist parties in Europe. Dastis said that Macron’s possible win in the second round would be “good news because his project for Europe is the closest to that of the Spanish government.”

Economic response

The euro hit a five-month high last night and this morning was at $1.086. Last night’s election results have been received positively by investors as the French stock market jumped by 4% reaching its highest level since April 2015. Investors were satisfied with the news that Macron is leading the race, with the hope that he will emerge as the winner of the election on 7 May. As John Wyn-Evans of Investec Wealth & Investment said: “Macron’s policies cleverly appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, and they are succinctly described by the Financial Times as a 'business-friendly agenda coupled with Nordic-style welfarism' encompassing, for example, labour market deregulation, lower corporation tax, and no social security contributions for those on the minimum wage.”

The day after

Macron, who is the leader of the social liberal political party, En Marche! (“Association for the Renewal of Political Life”), founded in 2016, will be appearing on Monday (24/4/2017) afternoon to place a wreath at the statue of Komitas in the Place du Canada to commemorate the 102 anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

On Sunday night, Macron was criticised for celebrating his first-round result at Paris brasserie La Rotonde with his staff and a host of celebrities. He replied: “If you haven’t understood that it’s my pleasure tonight to invite out my secretaries, my security guards, then you haven’t understood anything about life.”

Le Pen attacked Macron on Monday morning saying that he has “no project to protect the French people in the face of Islamist dangers.” She added: “I’m on the ground to meet the French people to draw their attention to important subjects, including Islamist terrorism, to which the least we can say Mr Macron is weak on.”

Le Pen accused Macron for celebrating, like Nicolas Sarkozy, before even winning, calling the party at La Rotonde, “shameful.” Le Pen sees herself and her party as the “patriots” who are against Macron’s “globalists.” The old left and right antagonism has now been replaced by the populists’ new opposition between global market winners and patriotic losers. 

How does the French election system work?

In France, a candidate is elected president once they amassed a certain number of votes. If the candidate doesn’t receive enough votes, then there is a second round of voting. The elected president always wins the majority of votes. 

Voters will return to the polls to vote for a new parliament on 11 and 18 June. Le Pen has only two MPs in the current parliament, whereas Macron is an independent candidate. The parliamentary elections in June will be very important because the majority in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, will determine how the next president will govern, and what coalition is possible. For, Le Pen, it will be difficult to win a parliamentary majority and would be impossible to govern. Macron will be fielding candidates from his En Marche! party and would need a board coalition, while Le Pen would need to increase her National Front MPs.