French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen finished as the top two vote-getters in the first round of the country’s election, advancing to a run-off later this month, CNN reports.
Macron finished first with 27.8%, trailed by Le Pen’s 23.2%. Left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon finished a close third at 22%. No other candidate received more than 8% of the vote.
Voter participation fell in the contest, falling to 73%, the lowest in 20 years.
Macron, a centrist, is seeking to become the first French president to be reelected since Jacques Chirac in 2002.
"Nothing is settled and the debate that we will have in the coming 15 days is decisive for our country and our Europe," he said Sunday. "I don't want a France which, having left Europe, would have as its only allies the international populists and xenophobes. That is not us. I want a France faithful to humanism, to the spirit of enlightenment.”
Le Pen surges:
Macron handily defeated Le Pen in 2017 by a margin of 66-34.
But Macron’s support has plummeted, especially after he pushed to raise the retirement age, while Le Pen’s support has grown, in part because ultra-right-wing candidate Eric Zemmour helped her look more moderate by comparison.
A poll on Sunday showed Macron leading Le Pen by just 51% to 49%.
Le Pen’s popularity has grown as she moved away from railing against immigration and Muslims and ran a more mainstream campaign focused on pensions and the cost of living.
Le Pen on Sunday vowed to be a president for “all the French” if she wins.
Other candidates warn against Le Pen:
Outside of Zemmour, most of the also-rans urged their supporters not to vote for Le Pen in the runoff.
"We must not give a single vote to Mrs. Le Pen," Melenchon told his supporters, though he did not explicitly back Macron.
Socialist Anne Hidalgo said a Le Pen win would instill in France "a hatred of everyone set against everyone.”
Republican Valerie Pecresse said she worried for her country because “the far right has never been so close to winning.”