Macron sets his sights on French presidency

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PARIS: Centrist Emmanuel Mac­ron will face off against far-right Marine Le Pen in the second round of France’s presidential election, projections showed on Sunday, making him the clear favourite to emerge as the country’s youngest leader in modern history.

Macron was projected to win between 23 and 24 percent in Sunday’s first round, slightly ahead of National Front (FN) leader Le Pen with between 21.6 and 23 percent, according to estimates on public television.

“The French have expressed their desire for change,” Macron told AFP in a statement, adding: “We’re clearly turning a page in French political history.” The outcome capped an extraordinary few months for a deeply divided France, which saw a campaign full of twists and turns and widespread anger at traditional parties.

Representatives from the European Union and European parliament have backed pro-Europe Macron, taking an exceptional stance during an ongoing campaign. Some 47 million people are eligible to vote in France. By late afternoon, turnout was above 69 percent, the highest since the 2012 election.

It signals a stinging defeat for the scandal-hit rightwing Republicans party candidate Francois Fillon and Socialist Benoit Hamon, meaning neither of France’s mainstream parties will be in the second round for the first time in 60 years. Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen have progressed to the runoff on 7 May.

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