According to estimates from CNN affiliate BFMTV and polling company Elabe, newcomer Macron secured 24% of the vote, with National Front leader Le Pen close behind on 21.8%.
The result, if confirmed, is a comprehensive rejection of traditional French politics. Neither candidate hails from the establishment parties that have dominated France for decades.
BFMTV and Elabe suggest scandal-hit conservative François Fillon and far-left wildcard Jean-Luc Mélenchon won 19.9% and 19.3% of the vote respectively, and have been knocked out of the closely-fought race.
Speaking to supporters in Henin-Beaumont, anti-immigration, anti-European Union candidate Le Pen hailed the result:
“It is time to free French people from arrogant elites … I am the people’s candidate.” “The French people must seize this opportunity, because the enormous challenge of this election is the wild globalization that puts our civilization at risk,” Le Pen said.
“Either we continue to disintegrate without any borders, without any controls, unfair international competition, mass immigration and the free circulation of terrorists, or you choose France with borders,” she added.
Below is the brie summary of the election held in France today:
- French voters have voted in the first round of a tight presidential election
- Emmanuel Macron will face Marine Le Pen in 7 May run-off, according to projections
- Marine Le Pen promises to “free French people from arrogant elites”
- Turnout is about 80%, roughly the same as in 2012
- Anti-National Front demonstrators have clashed with police in Paris and some are hurt.
The incumbent President, socialist François Hollande, whose approval ratings have remained in the doldrums for several years, made the unusual decision not to run for a second term.
As the results became clear, French politicians and several of the defeated candidates appeared to throw their support behind Macron — or to speak out against Le Pen.
Independent centrist Macron, 39, a former banker, has never held elected office, though he served as economy minister under Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
But he attracted support from left and right with promises to boost the economy and improve security.
His party, “En Marche!” which was only created in September, now has more than 200,000 members and his meetings have attracted vast crowds.
Far-right National Front leader Le Pen, 48, is best known for her anti-immigration rhetoric; she told supporters her first move as president would be to impose a temporary ban on legal immigration to France. She has also vowed to take France out of the EU.