Paris – French Centrist Emmanuel Macron took a big step towards the Elysée on Sunday by winning the first round of voting along with far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
“I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists,” Macron told his supporters as the first election results were announced.
“The French have expressed their desire for change,” he told AFP in a statement, adding: “We’re clearly turning a page in French political history.”
Macron said he wanted to gather “the largest possible” support before the May 7 runoff.
He called for hope in Europe instead of fear, a reference to Le Pen’s anti-European Union campaign.
Le Pen, for her part, described the election results as “historic.” She also promised to “free the French people from arrogant elites.”
Calling herself the candidate for the people, the far-right presidential contender said: “The main thing at stake in this election is the rampant globalization that is endangering our civilization.”
Conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister, finished third with 19.91 percent, while Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far left was fourth 19.64 percent.
In a speech following the announcement of his defeat, Fillon urged voters to support Macron, warning that Le Pen would bankrupt France if elected.
“There is no other choice but to vote against the far right, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” Fillon told his supporters.
The Interior Ministry announced that turnout had reached 69.4 percent three hours before the polls closed, compared with 70.6 percent in the first round of presidential voting in 2012.
A total of 50,000 policemen and gendarmes have been mobilized for the two rounds of presidential elections, French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said, amid increased security concerns.