Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen on track to advance to French presidential runoff, data shows

Paris (CNN)Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen appear to be the leading candidates in the first round of the French presidential elections, an analysis of early results shows, setting up a rematch of the 2017 contest.Macron, France’s current president, appears poised to take 28.6% of the votes, putting him in first place, according to an analysis conducted by pollster Ifop-Fiducial for French broadcasters TF1 and LCI. Le Pen, a long-time standard-bearer for the French far-right, is on track to come in second with 23.6%.Twelve candidates ran for the top job. If none of them receives more than 50% of the ballots, the top two will face each other in a runoff on April 24. But a second round is all but guaranteed — no French presidential candidate has ever won in the first round under the current system.

A woman picks her ballots in the first round of the French presidential election in Lyon, central France, on Sunday.The contest was marked by voter apathy, according to Ifop-Fiducial. Voter participation was estimated at 73.3%, the lowest in a first round in 20 years. While Macron appears on track to win the first round, he is a polarizing figure whose approval rating has lagged during his first term.

Macron urged voters to come out for the second round in a speech after the polls closed.”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. “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,” he said.

Macron is seeking to become the first French president to win reelection since Jacques Chirac in 2002. While polls have given him a consistent edge over the field, the race tightened significantly in the past month.

Le Pen’s support has steadily risen in recent weeks. Though she is best known for her far-right policies such as drastically restricting immigration and banning Muslim headscarves in public places, she has run a more mainstream campaign this time around, softening her language and focusing more on pocketbook issues like the rising cost of living, a top concern for the French electorate.In her speech Sunday, Le Pen vowed to be a president for “all the French” if she wins the second round, and called on those who didn’t vote for Macron to support her in the second round.

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