French stocks, euro surge after first round of presidential vote

By Conal Urquhart in London | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-25 07:35

Almost all other main contenders urge supporters to back Macron

The French stock market and the euro surged after voters selected centrist newcomer Emanuel Macron and the Front National's Marine Le Pen to fight for the French presidency when the second round of voting is held next month.

It was the first time that neither the Socialist nor Republican parties had made it to the second round since 1958. While that represents a major change in the political landscape, European leaders and markets were reassured by the performance of Macron, who is almost certain to defeat Le Pen on May 7.

Macron polled 23.8 percent to Le Pen's 21.5 percent, Francois Fillon, an early favorite, had 19.9 percent, followed by the left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon with 19.6 percent and the Socialist Party's Benoit Haman with 6.4 percent. There were also six other candidates.

French stocks, euro surge after first round of presidential vote

As the results emerged, all the main contenders, except Melenchon, urged their supporters to back Macron. Opinion polls gave Macron at least a 24-point lead over Le Pen.

Macron could be the youngest president in the 59-year history of the French Fifth Republic. The 39-year old formed the En Marche party one year ago and it has no deputies in French parliament. If Macron becomes president, his next battle will be to get enough deputies elected to parliament in June to help him govern, although his party is well-placed to lead a coalition.

"The challenge is to break completely with the system which has been unable to find solutions to the problems of our country for more than 30 years," Macron said on Sunday.

Quite clear choice

The choice for French voters is quite clear. Le Pen seeks to leave international alliances, such as the European Union and NATO, and looks for domestic solutions to terrorism and unemployment, such as restricting migration and protecting French industry from competition.

Macron is an internationalist who sees strength in alliances and wants French borders kept open to trade and migration.

But most voters appeared to have taken the threat in their stride. The euro was up on Monday to hit a 5-month high at $1.086, as fears of France pulling out of the single currency and the EU receded. The CAC 40 index of France's leading companies rose by 4 percent on Monday morning.

"Most likely, the French election can mark a turning point for France and Europe," said analyst Holger Schmieding from Berenberg Bank.

Le Pen's result is a qualified victory for the Front National. She did much better than in the 2012 presidential elections and far better than her father when he came second in 2002.

If the presidency is beyond her, Le Pen and her party will aim to increase their representation in parliament. The Front National has only two deputies out of 577 in parliament.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this story.

 French stocks, euro surge after first round of presidential vote

Marine Le Pen, French National Front party leader, delivers a speech after the first round of 2017 French presidential election, in Henin-Beaumont, France, on Sunday.Charles Platiau / Reuters

 French stocks, euro surge after first round of presidential vote

Pro-European centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron addresses his supporters at his election day headquarters on Sunday in Paris. The French vote was being closely watched as a bellwether for populist sentiment following the Brexit vote.Christophe Ena / Associated Press

(China Daily 04/25/2017 page11)

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