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Emmanuel Macron will go head-to-head with Marine Le Pen in run-off for presidency
10 April 2022, 21:58 | Updated: 11 April 2022, 08:34
French President Emmanuel Macron will face far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the presidential election after making it through the first round.
A key exit poll puts him around 5 percentage points above her, putting the two candidates through to the second round run off on April 24, according to projections on French television channels.
Mr Macron urged his supporters to block his rival two weeks today - as he seeks a second term, which will be the first since Jacques Chirac beat Marine Le Pen's father Jean-Marie in 2002.
Polls opened across France on Sunday morning for the first round of the country's presidential election, where up to 48 million eligible voters will be chose one of 12 candidates.
Mr Macron, a political centrist, for months looked like a shoo-in to become France's first president in 20 years to win a second term.
But that scenario blurred in the campaign's closing stages as the pain of inflation and of pump, food and energy prices roared back as dominant election themes for many low-income households.
This drove many voters on Sunday into the arms of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, Mr Macron's political nemesis.
Mr Macron trounced Ms Le Pen by a landslide to become France's youngest president in 2017.
The win for the former banker - now 44 - was seen as a victory against populist, nationalist politics, coming in the wake of Donald Trump's election to the White House and Britain's vote to leave the European Union, both in 2016.
With populist Viktor Orban winning a fourth consecutive term as Hungary's prime minister days ago, eyes have now turned to France's resurgent far-right candidates - especially National Rally leader Ms Le Pen, who wants to ban Muslim headscarves in streets and halal and kosher butchers, and drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe.
This election has the potential to reshape France's post-war identity and indicate whether European populism is ascendant or in decline.
Meanwhile, if Mr Macron wins, it will be seen as a victory for the European Union.
Observers say a Macron re-election would spell real likelihood for increased cooperation and investment in European security and defence - especially with a new pro-EU German government.