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Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron secured the top spot in France’s presidential elections Sunday, but he failed to gain enough votes to avoid a runoff election against his main opponent, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Results showed that Macron secured nearly 28 percent of the vote, while Le Pen came in second place with slightly more than 23 percent. Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in third with 22 percent, which appeared not to be enough to make the runoff.
The second round of polls will take place on April 24. Election observers predicted a tight race that could prove challenging for centrist Macron.
In the 2017 runoff elections, Macron defeated Le Pen by more than 30 percentage points, but analysts posited that he would now win by only 4-6 percentage points against the far-right candidate.
They added that the results stem from a series of factors, including dissatisfaction with Macron’s presidency, rising costs and Le Pen’s efforts to moderate her image.
Le Pen’s campaign focused on concerns about the economy and rising inflation. She strove to downplay her ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. She also took a softer approach to immigration to make exceptions for Ukrainian refugees.
Meanwhile, Macron only held a single large campaign rally, did not engage in debates with competitors and did not deliver any of the big-vision speeches for which he is known.
Although his tough stance against Moscow’s invasion gave him a boost, the incumbent has gained a reputation as an elitist politician out of touch with issues affecting everyday people, some analysts noted.
Others suggested that Mélenchon’s third place in the polls also shows that many left-leaning voters are disappointed with Macron’s efforts to fight climate change and his shift to the right on issues such as national security.
A second-round victory would make Le Pen the first far-right president in French history and could upend European politics by replacing the most ardent supporter of European Union collaboration with a leader renowned for her anti-EU sentiments.
It could also give far-right parties in the bloc an official platform at a time when nationalists in other EU countries have been struggling.