Election in France: 'Despair Over the Existing Policy and Hope for Changes'

Though Macron is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, new opinion polls on Sunday had him easily winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Le Pen.

Le Pen took the largest share of the vote her far-right National Front has ever won, beating the party's previous record total of 18.1% in 2012.

Farage said he was not "calling it" for Le Pen, but predicted the gap between the two candidates will "narrow considerably" in the next two weeks.

Macron "will have my vote", he said, adding that his victory was essential to the future of France and Europe.

Of course until the second round of elections is held there is always some risk of National Front leader Le Pen being victorious.

His daughter has done much to soften the FN's image, gathering support especially among young people - a quarter of whom are unemployed - with her promises to push back against "rampant globalization".

Macron, formerly a banker, served as economy minister under current President Francois Hollande, but left his role to launch a rival party. "The challenge is to open a new page in our political life and to take action so that everyone is able to find his or her place in France and in Europe".

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Though Le Pen came second with 21.5 percent of the vote on Sunday and will contest the runoff on May 7, the favorite to be the country's next president is Macron, who came top with around 24 percent.

A Harris survey saw Macron going on to win the runoff against her by 64% to 36. He wants a common European policy for countries to share the burden of immigration, no further restrictions on headscarves or other Islamic religious symbols, an increase in military spending to the NATO-mandated 2 percent, and wants more and stronger European integration (Donald Trump will be happy on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation score and probably take credit).

Macron's good looks, profound understanding of the economy, social media skills and unassuming style have helped his campaign despite the fact that no independent candidate has been elected president in France in decades. (Onwards!) movement has none.

Louis Aliot, a National Front vice president and Le Pen's companion, insisted that Le Pen offers an alternative for anyone skeptical of the European Union and France's role in it.

But Mr Macron still faces a challenge convincing some voters he has the experience and clout to become president.

His victory makes him the frontrunner in next month's election, and marked a huge defeat for the two centre-right and centre-left groupings that have dominated French politics for 60 years.

While their policies on higher education are unlikely to be the decisive factor in swaying the electorate, they are nonetheless - as I explore in a feature this week - revealing of the candidates' wider attitudes. Fillon, a former prime minister, bested the former Trotskyist Melenchon by just 94,998 votes.

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