What to expect from France’s second-round presidential election

Round one.
Round one.
Image: Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
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The results are in from the first round of the French presidential election. Incumbent centrist Emmanuel Macron eked ahead of National Front’s Marine Le Pen, but was far from winning the election outright.

France conducts a two-round election; voters head to the polls on two Sundays, two weeks apart. It is possible for a candidate to take the position in the first round, if they win more than 50% of the vote. This has never happened, however, meaning on April 24 voters will return to the polls for the final contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron also faced Le Pen in 2017, and the results after the first round were close. This time, and with a lower voter turnout, Macron has emerged from the first round further ahead than in 2017.

While this looks good for Macron, French elections can be full of surprises, and the final results do not always mirror the first round.

Did France’s far-right gain ground?

Polling suggests there’s a good chance the second round’s results will be similar to those in 2017; however, the margins this time could be much tighter. What happens on April 24 will depend on the number of runner-up candidates who are willing to shift their allegiance to Le Pen.

Altogether, far-right candidates, including Le Pen, obtained a larger share of the vote this time around—more than 30%—compared with 2017, when it was closer to 26%.