PARIS ― The wait is finally over. At the end of a historic campaign, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen decisively defeated Jean-Luc Mélenchon and François Fillon in the first round of the French presidential election.
Sunday’s results are a landmark moment in France’s recent political history. As many as four candidates stood a chance of advancing to this year’s runoff, and for the first time ever in the history of the Fifth Republic, neither the Republican Party nor the Socialist Party will have a candidate in the second round.
Macron, the centrist candidate who formed his own party, En Marche! (which translates roughly to “Onward!”), is set to win the first round of the election with 23.8 percent of the vote, according to projections on Sunday night. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the former economy minister who ran without support from any of the main four parties in Parliament.
“The two political parties that have governed France for years have been discarded,” Macron said on Sunday night.
Le Pen, the head of the National Front party, will likely win 22 percent of the vote ― nearly 4 points more than she took home in the previous election. While it appears she didn’t come in first, her spot in the runoff marks a historic moment for the far-right, nationalist party.
Fillon And The Crisis On The Right
The biggest disappointment of the night was for Fillon. The conservative Republican candidate will be eliminated in the first round with around 19-20 percent of the vote. While Fillon was the front-runner five months ago, allegations that he paid family members to work as parliamentary aides eventually meant the end of the former prime minister’s presidential aspirations.
Fillon’s defeat, combined with Macron’s victory, are likely to cause a serious crisis within the Republican Party. Fillon said on Sunday he plans to vote for Macron and urged his followers to do the same. “Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right,” Fillon said.
Mélenchon, the left-wing candidate of La France Insoumise (“A France That Won’t Bow Down”) surged in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign and appears set to eventually take home 18-19 percent of the vote. Mélenchon ran a dynamic and innovative campaign, and while he didn’t manage to reach the runoff, he improved his 2012 score by 7 points. His strong personal results and the collapse of the Socialist Party may allow him to lay the groundwork for a vast citizens’ movement.
Race To The Bottom For The Socialist Party
For Benoît Hamon, the candidate of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, hopes for a last-minute surprise did not pan out. A victim of the divisions within his own party and Mélenchon’s appeal, Hamon took home the worst score ever recorded by a candidate for his party in the presidential election.
There’s no doubt that Hamon’s defeat will bring more political leverage for his Socialist Party colleague, Manual Valls. Valls, a former prime minister, stunned in March by announcing his support for Macron rather than for Hamon, the candidate of his own political party.
This story first appeared on HuffPost France and was translated into English.