Macron to Face Off Against Far-Right Candidate in Knife-Edge French Election

Marine Le Pen, who has promised to ban the hijab, will go up against centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron in the run-off presidential vote.
Simon Childs
London, GB
Marine Le Pen during an election night event after the first round of voting on the 10th of April, 2022 in Paris, France. Photo: Louise Delmotte/Getty Images
Marine Le Pen after the first round of voting. Photo: Louise Delmotte/Getty Image

A politician who wants to completely ban the hijab is set to face off against Emmanual Macron, the centrist incumbent, in the French election.

Macron topped the poll in the first round on Sunday with 27.6 percent of the vote ahead of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen who got 23.4 percent, according to one projection.

A sense of deja vu around the election has failed to enthuse voters and there was a low turnout for the first round.

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The country will now face a frantic two weeks of campaigning between the economic liberal and the far-right nationalist. As other candidates admitted defeat in the first round, they called on their supporters to vote to block Le Pen, with the exception of Eric Zemmour, another far-right candidate. However analysts say that the “republican front” - the alliance of voters that historically united against the far-right in France - may not materialise as some voters choose to abstain.

Polls are predicting a razor-thin majority for Macron in the run-off on the 24th of April. A poll by Ifop taken outside polling stations during Sunday’s vote forecast 51 percent of voter support for Macron and 49 percent for Le Pen.

Last week Le Pen, 53, pledged to issue fines to Muslims who wear headscarves in public. She told RTL radio: "People will be given a fine in the same way that it is illegal to not wear your seatbelt. It seems to me that the police are very much able to enforce this measure."

However Le Pen has largely toned down her anti-migrant rhetoric during this election and as a result fewer than half of French voters now find her “scary” according to one survey.

The far-right candidate has tried to tap into discontent at the cost of living crisis and paint Macron as part of a distant elite.