France’s next leader: centrist Macron vs. far-right Le Pen

Macron is now expected to beat Le Pen more comfortably in the second round of voting come the 7th of May, with forex markets pricing the result in well and truly in advance.

Obama’s spokesperson said this was not a formal endorsement, but the former US president doesn’t appear to have called any other French presidential candidate.

Paris: The elimination of the two mainstream French parties from the first round of presidential elections on Sunday showed the deep malaise of French society, a member of centrist Emmanuel Macron’s campaign said on Sunday. It’s meant to give voters time to reflect on their choice free from media distractions.

Thanking Fillon and Hamon for their early endorsements made during their concession speeches, he said: “Tonight I start to gather together the French people”.

Macron is in favour of transforming Europe’s bailout fund, the ESM, into a full-blown European Monetary Fund, an idea that has supporters in Berlin. Bets for swings in lenders’ stocks have jumped and options reached their highest prices since February a year ago relative to those for euro-area blue chips.

Property and construction stocks also declined, led by China Resources Cement Holdings as more cities put curbs on home purchases.

Many in the jubilant crowd waved both the French tricolor and the European Union flags, chanting, “We will win!”

“It’s a political natural disaster in this country and in Europe”, veteran journalist Christine Ockrent told CNN.

Conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister, has 19.95 percent, while Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left has 19.50 percent in the first-round vote.

Le Pen or Melenchon would struggle, in parliamentary elections in June, to win a majority to carry out such radical moves, but their growing popularity worries both investors and France’s European Union partners.

With 99 percent of ballots counted, Macron has 23.82 percent of the vote and Le Pen 21.57 percent.

The selection of Le Pen and Macron presented voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU’s future and France’s place in it. It’s a new era, I hope, and a new – something new is coming.

France is now steaming into unchartered territory, because whoever wins on May 7 can not count on the backing of France’s political mainstream parties.

CBS News visited Hechon the day before the recent Paris shooting, when he, like millions of young French people, were preoccupied with France’s economic woes. The two will now face a run-off to determine who will be president on May 7.

Since taking over the party leadership, his daughter has tried to distance herself from him to make the National Front more appealing to a wider range of voters.

Marine Le Pen recently called for banning the wearing of the kippah in public and for making it illegal for French nationals to also have an Israeli passport – steps she said were necessary because of the principle of equality in order to facilitate similar limitations on Muslims. Fillon, though likely to struggle less to get a majority, would likely be dogged by an embezzlement scandal, in which he denies wrongdoing.

However, Le Pen has a reputation for being loyal.

He told his supporters, “we have to choose what is preferable for our country, and I am not going to rejoice”. “I do not believe in abstention, especially if an extremist party is getting close to power”.

“Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France”, defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said.

Sylvain Hechon is 25 years old – an activist in the town of Maubeuge, a National Front stronghold. Almost half of French voters opted for candidates on the extreme right and left of the political spectrum. She has also vowed to take France out of the EU.

French vote for president in litmus test for Europe's future