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It’s a Macron versus Le Pen final

France’s progressive and most promising candidate Emmanuel Macron has made it through the first round of the French elections. Many have breathed a large sigh of relief; I certainly did.

It is by no means over yet. The far-right candidate Marine Le Pen also made it through following the predictions reported in Friday’s column. The two will fight for the presidency in the run-off vote on May 7.

This has been a Sunday full of expectation, with the normal sleepy pace of a sunny spring day punctuated by the comings and goings of cars carrying people to the polling station located in the school just around the corner from our house.

I couldn’t vote, but this afternoon I wandered down with my son and followed the steady and purposeful stream of people entering through the school gates.

Passing the police van and two armed policemen, we made our way to the row of people waiting outside the voting room.

I spotted a friend who kindly invited my son to follow her through the voting process. She plucked several candidate cards from the table, then the two headed to a private booth, curtains were drawn, and the deed must have been done: one candidate’s card selected.

I then watched my son post the small brown envelope into the well-guarded transparent box. Et Voilà!

It was all very calm and friendly; but a definite air of expectancy clung to the room. My son later told me, wearing a wide conspiratorial smile, that he had been sworn to secrecy as to whom she had chosen.

Polling stations closed at 8pm, and with remarkable efficiency the vote projections came flooding onto our screen soon afterwards.

Presidential candidate placards outside a town library in the western suburbs of Paris.

Macron, the fresh-faced 39-year-old, addressed the nation shortly after 10pm local time:

“Today, the French people have expressed themselves. As the history of our country is passing through uncharted territory marked by terrorism, economic challenges, social suffering and urgent environmental issues, they have replied in the best way possible: they have voted in their masses, they have decided to put me at the head of the first round of the polls.”

He ended by thanking the nation for their vote, thanking his family and his gorgeous wife Brigitte, who, he took care to point out was “always present and even more, and without her, I would not be here.”

While the votes are still being counted as I type, the poll predictions were not far off. The position at midnight, with 85 per cent of the vote counted, stands at: Macron and his centrist party En Marche! 23.39 per cent, National Front's Le Pen 22.37 per cent, François Fillon 19.79 per cent and Jean-Luc Mélanchon 19.23 per cent, with the other seven candidates sharing the balance.

Fillon was the first to declare defeat and that he will be “voting for Emmanuel Macron on May 7.”

The voting room was very well organised and calm, although a definite air of expectancy clung to the classroom.

This follows along the lines of an anticipated move to prevent a Le Pen presidency by mainstream voters voting tactically against the far-right in the May 7 run-off.

I now have fingers and toes crossed that this tactical vote does actually happen, that those who backed other candidates in the first round, do use their vote to secure an Emmanuel Macron presidency.

France, indeed Europe, cannot afford to have the anti-Europe, xenophobe Marine Le Pen take the reins.


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