France’s Emmanuel Macron looks set for a second term as president, with exit polls predicting he will comfortably beat his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s election.
Centrist Macron of the La Republique En Marche party looks set to gain around 58% in the second and final round of voting, according to early polls and projections, with Marine Le Pen of the nationalist and far-right National Rally party on around 42%.
Despite the predicted victory, the margin represents a smaller gap between the two candidates in comparison with the 2017 election, when Macron won with 66.1% of the vote.
The 2022 campaign was set against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a cost of living crisis in France, a surge in support for the far-left among younger generations and suggestions of widespread voter apathy.
At the start of the campaign trail, 44-year-old Macron benefitted from his attitude and diplomatic efforts toward the Russia-Ukraine war. But that support dissipated in the days prior to the first round of voting on Apr. 10, as French citizens focused heavily on domestic affairs and soaring inflation.
Marine Le Pen — who has now run for France’s presidency three times — chose to distance herself from her previous rhetoric on the European Union and euro integration and instead concentrate on the economic struggles of French voters.
Nonetheless, as the second round of voting approached, scrutiny over the two individuals and their policies intensified. In a two-hour TV debate Wednesday, Macron called out Le Pen’s previous ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, accusing her of being dependent on Moscow.
Macron said Friday that Le Pen’s plans to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public would trigger a “civil war.”
If Macron’s win is confirmed then it would make him the first French president in two decades to win a second term. He’ll look to continue his reformist agenda, recently promising to help France reach full employment and change the country’s retirement age from 62 to 65.
–This is a breaking news story, please check back later for more.