Beer flows, champagne bubbles as Macron, Le Pen reach final

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PARIS (AP) – Beer flowed in celebration of the incumbent Emmanuel Macron’s first-round victory in France’s presidential election, as champagne corks burst through the city to mark the second-place finish of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

It was a buzzing night out for both the contenders and their supporters ahead of a two-week clash to see who will become France’s head of state over the next five years. The two will revisit their 2017 contest when centrist Macron, then an upstart never previously elected to office, was won by a landslide.

Flags, the national anthem and cheers — fueled with drinks as different as the two contenders’ programs — marked the end of a campaign that left 10 other candidates on the sidelines.

Macron was projected to gain a healthy lead of around 28% in the first round, ahead of Le Pen’s 23%-24%. The final official results were not yet available.

“One, two, five more years,” said Marcon’s supporters. “Navy president” and “We will win” chanted the hundreds of guests of Le Pen’s election party.

“Now anything is possible,” said Aurélien Lopez Liguori, councilor for the National Rally of Le Pen, in the southern city of Sete. Macron “will finally answer to the French people” for his “poor record”.

He praised Le Pen’s mostly silent, close-to-the-people campaign, far from TV cameras, for its showing. “The French thanked us tonight.”

It was anything but quiet at Le Pen’s election site in a park in eastern Paris. Cheers drowned out parts of her speech as polls were announced.

Le Pen, 53, a solid nationalist, has revamped her program and her style, campaigning for purchasing power and determined to be people-friendly, to further distance herself from the far-right image that haunts her anti-immigration party, the work she began when she took over more than ten years ago. She’s been campaigning since September, longer than any other candidate, and as the campaign came to an end she soared in opinion polls.

Macron, 44, came late on the campaign trail, preoccupied with affairs of state, including his active role in trying to stop the war in Ukraine. He has dominated the polls from the start, but some in his entourage were deeply concerned about Le Pen’s steady advance.

Supporter Julien Bon said he was happy with Sunday night’s results.

“It’s better than we expected,” he said, referring to recent opinion polls. “We are well on our way. Now we have to fight.”

Le Pen’s supporters on her electoral party came from all over France and beyond.

“I couldn’t support Marine Le Pen with my vote, but if I were French I would,” said Hungarian guest Agnes Zsofia Magyar, who met Le Pen during the French politician’s visit to Budapest to meet leader Victor Orban and support his nationalist Fidesz party. † She works in Brussels at the partisan Foundation for a Civil Hungary.

“I’m sure the French have decided to change their system,” said Magyar, anticipating Le Pen’s second-round victory on April 24 and alluding to the drastic differences between populist Le Pen and pro-European Union Macron. represent.

Macron cheered losing candidates who called on their supporters to vote for him in the second round. Supporters applauded far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon when he said: “We should not cast any votes for Le Pen.”

“I think Marine Le Pen has a good chance of winning,” said Gilles Lebreton, a European Parliament MP for the far-right party. Her party is counting on winning supporters from Eric Zemmour, a far-right pundit whose decision to enter the race divided Le Pen’s supporters.

For Le Pen’s National Rally, the second round starts Monday, when Lebreton said party officials would meet to plan the strategy for the second round.

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