Le Pen, Macron ahead in French presidential vote, partial official figures show

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday emerged as the projected winners of a nail-biting first round presidential vote in France.

Speaking in her constituency Henin-Beaumont in northern France, Le Pen thanked her supporters for bringing her to the second round, calling it a historic result.

Fillon won 19.9 percent of the vote, close to the 19.4 percent for extreme-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who did not immediately lend his support to Macron for the run-off.

Polls now suggest Le Pen will have a hard time convincing enough voters to join her in the second round.

"They (the people) made a decision to put me to the first place in the first round of this vote, and I appreciate the honor and great responsibility that was bestowed on me", Macron continued. It set up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France, a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking platform that called for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.

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Last night, rival politicians, including Fillon, the nominee of the conservative Republican Party, began to rally around Macron to prevent Le Pen from taking the presidency.

The first leg of the presidential election administered a stunning defeat for the two main right and left parties that have dominated France for decades, underlining the dissatisfaction with conventional politics that has been a feature of the French campaign. Francois Fillon said Le Pen's "Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its program would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos".

In his victory speech, Macron, 39, sounded at times as if he'd already won the election. "And Macron, I don't really have confidence in him either". Hamon polled only 6 percent of the vote. A Harris survey taken on Sunday indicated Macron would win by 64 percent to 36 percent for Le Pen. Reuters reports that "Macron favors gradual deregulation measures that will be welcomed by global financial markets, while Le Pen wants to ditch the euro currency and possibly pull out of the European Union".

Reaction on financial markets overnight also indicated positive reaction to the result.

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