The Latest Updates on the Critical French Election

On Sunday, French leader Emmanuel Macron won the first round of the presidential race in France.

Macron defeated conservative candidate Marine Le Pen, but he is on track for a far tighter second-round battle than five years ago.

While polls indicate Macron will win re-election in two weeks, first-round results illustrate the president cannot rest on his laurels.

Le Pen will have the support of right-wing TV political commentator Eric Zemmour, who urged his fans to vote for her on April 24.

Nevertheless, leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon outperformed expectations and adds a layer of uncertainty to the equation because his supporters are diverse.

Many voters are expected to abstain in the second phase, while others will split their votes between Macron and Le Pen.

Here are some key lessons after the first round of the presidential campaign:

1. Macron and Le Pen are the ideological kings and queens.

The rerun of the 2017 runoff in France supports Macron and Le Pen’s own political commentary: that the left-right division in France has been supplanted by an antagonism between a dominant majority that is pro-European and accessible to the outside world on the one hand, and nationalists on another.

Both contenders scored significantly higher than they did five years ago, putting the conventional right and left in considerably greater disarray than they were before.

Macron rose from 24 percent in the first round of the election in 2017 to 27.6% on Sunday, while Le Pen climbed from 21.3% to 23.4 basis points.

The distance between them is wider than it was last time, indicating that despite scandals in the last weeks of the campaign, such as the state’s excessive use of consulting firms, Macron has been able to garner the most votes.

However, the far-right alliance, which included Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour, and nationalistic Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, received more than 30% of the vote.

2. Zemmour didn’t have a surprise win.

Back in October, Zemmour, a 63-year-old TV talking head, was expected to finish second behind Macron.

However, he plunged in the polls after being accused of lacking credibility as the Ukraine conflict escalated and old comments praising Russian President Vladimir Putin surfaced.

He received a dismal seven percent.

Despite their fierce and relentless rivalry all through the election, he endorsed Marine Le Pen quickly.

“I sympathize with Marine Le Pen,” Zemmour stated in his concession address on Sunday, “but there is a person in front of Marine Le Pen who allowed in two million immigrants.”

“As a result, if he is re-elected, he will do much worse. It is for this reason that I urge my supporters to vote for Marine Le Pen.”

It’s unclear whether this signals the formation of a long-term far-right alliance.

Nicolas Bay and Gilbert Collard, two MEPs who defected from Le Pen’s party to join Zemmour, expressed reservations about forming an alliance with her if she wins the second phase.