President Emmanuel Macron is leading in the first round of the French presidential election with 28% of the vote followed by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, with around 24.5%, according to the first results of an exit poll announced Sunday.
As the final voting ended at 8.00 p.m. local time (1800GMT), several exit polls projected Macron of the Republic on the Move (LAREM) party in the lead over Le Pen of the National Front.
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According to an IPSOS exit poll for France24 news, Macron received 28.1% of the vote against Le Pen’s 23.3%. Estimates from polling firm Elabe for BFMTV and l’Express news showed Macron at 28.5% and Le Pen at 24.2%.
Both Macron and Le Pen have fared better than their first-round performance in 2017, when they garnered 24.01% and 21.30% respectively.
The two will face off in a fierce second-round battle on April 24.
Left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left Indomitable France is in the third position with 19%-20% of the vote, according to the two polls.
The surprise revelation of the polls is that former journalist and commentator Eric Zemmour of the Reconquest party (7%), known for his inflammatory hate speeches, who was contesting the French presidency for the first time, has scored over the experienced candidate of the Republicans party, Valerie Pecresse (5%).
All of the other candidates have obtained less than 5% of the vote. The biggest jolt of the grim voting share is to the left and far-Left candidates: Europe Ecology-The Greens candidate Yannick Jadot, who is in sixth place, has received 4.4% of the vote, while Jean Lassalle of the Let’s resist! party has 3%, the Communist Party’s Fabien Roussel has 2.4% and the Socialist Party’s Anne Hidalgo has 1.9%, while Philippe Poutou of the New Anti-Capitalist Party and Nathalie Arthaud of the Workers’ Struggle party are at the bottom with 0.8% and 0.6% respectively. The only far-right candidate to fare low is Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of the Debout la France party with 1.8%, according to BFMTV news.
The total turnout has been dismal, with a large number of voters shunning the ballot box.
Up to 26% of the country’s 48.7 million registered voters are believed to have abstained from participating in the voting process — the lowest turnout since 2002, when the first-round abstention rate was 27.16%.
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