It’s not often that the politics of France, which Ernest Hemingway called “the simplest country to live in,” inspire angst across the world.
But this is where we find ourselves ahead of the country’s presidential election today (April 23), the first of two voting rounds that conclude on May 7. There’s plenty at stake. What is normally a parochial, domestic affair has become a litmus test for the future of the EU, the appeal of far-right populism, and Russia’s global clout.
It also is an historic moment for France—both its mainstream parties may get knocked out of the first contest between 11 candidates. There are two frontrunners among the top five: far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron. Vying for third place with conservative François Fillon is far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose politics come eerily close to those of Le Pen.
The top two performers from today’s vote advance to the next round. Here are the four likeliest second-round match-ups, and what each scenario would indicate: