France will elect a new president Sunday, with centrist Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! movement and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party in a runoff after the first round vote April 23.
Macron received the most votes in the field of 11 candidates who ran in the first round looking to succeed outgoing President Francois Hollande. Le Pen came in second.
Various opinion polls concur that Macron is on track to win the presidency. Heading into a debate Wednesday between the two candidates, Macron was favored by about 60% of voters, with Le Pen trailing at 40%, figures that have remained stable since the first-round vote. On Friday, the last opinion poll by Ipsos showed Macron winning 63% of votes and Le Pen 37%.
Emmanuel Macron, 39
WHO: Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron, 39, is a former minister of the economy and former investment banker. Macron lives in Paris with his wife, Brigitte, and her three children from a previous marriage. The couple met when he was a high school student and she was his teacher.
WHAT: Leader of the En Marche! (On the Move!) movement. Pro-Europe, pro-globalization. Macron was a finance minister in President François Hollande’s Socialist administration between 2014 and 2016, but has never held an elected post. He is a former investment banker with the Rothschild bank and a graduate of France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration, a hothouse for France’s political class.
HOW: Macron promised to shake up France’s traditional and scandal-hit political system, make working laws more flexible, slash business taxes, cut public spending and France’s bloated public sector and hire 10,000 additional police and gendarmes.
SLOGAN: France must be an opportunity for all.
HE SAID: “My country will not be divided. I want to bring answers and reforms to France that have not been implemented for 30 years. I want a real renewal of France, a new face for France and one that is not extreme right. The country deserves better."
Marine Le Pen, 48
WHO: Marion Anne Perrine Le Pen, (known as Marine Le Pen), 48, is the youngest daughter of far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen. She is the mother of three children and lives with her partner and political soulmate, Louis Aliot, a National Front vice president, in Paris.
WHAT: Represents the far-right National Front party. Took over as president of the party in 2011, succeeding her father, and set about changing its anti-Semitic, xenophobic image in a process she called “de-demonization.” She recently “temporarily” stood down as party president to concentrate on her presidential campaign. Le Pen is a trained lawyer, a regional councilor and a member of the European Parliament.
HOW: Le Pen stood on an anti-Europe, anti-globalization platform, promising to dump the euro in favor of the franc, and hold a referendum on France’s membership in the European Union. She proposed closing France’s borders to immigration, and a “French-first” priority for national citizens for housing, health care and social benefits.
SLOGAN: Choose France.
SHE SAID: “Whatever happens, France will be led by a woman: either me or Madame Merkel.” (Suggesting the German chancellor will pull the strings in France if Macron wins.)
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Willsher is a special correspondent.