ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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French leaders urge support for Macron ahead of presidential runoff against Le Pen

Bernard Cazeneuve rallies support for centrist in May 7 vote; protesters clash with police as poll results reveal 1st round winners

French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, on April 23, 2017, after the first round of the Presidential election. (AFP PHOTO / Patrick KOVARIK)
French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, on April 23, 2017, after the first round of the Presidential election. (AFP PHOTO / Patrick KOVARIK)

France’s prime minister on Sunday led calls from across the political spectrum urging voters to support centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron against far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the country’s presidential election.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged the defeat of Le Pen’s National Front party, in comments just after polling agencies projected the two advancing to the May 7 presidential runoff.

French President Francois Hollande congratulated Macron on reaching the presidential runoff, indicating his support for the candidate.

The announcement from Cazeneuve came moments after the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon conceded defeat. Hamon also urged his voters to back Macron, Reuters reported.

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron takes part in a special political TV show entitled "15mn to convince" at the studios of French television channel France 2 in Saint-Cloud, west of Paris, on April 20, 2017, a few days ahead of the first round of the presidential election. (Martin Bureau/AFP)
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron takes part in a special political TV show entitled “15mn to convince” at the studios of French television channel France 2 in Saint-Cloud, west of Paris, on April 20, 2017, a few days ahead of the first round of the presidential election. (Martin Bureau/AFP)

With 34 percent of the vote counted, France’s Interior Ministry said that Le Pen was leading with 24.6 percent of the vote followed by Macron with 21.9%.

The early vote count includes primarily rural constituencies that lean to the right, while urban areas that lean left are counted later.

If the results hold, it would be the first time in modern French history that no major-party candidate has advanced to the presidential runoff.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel hailed the projected results. The Social Democrat said he was “sure” Macron would be elected president.

Protesters angry at Le Pen’s success scuffled with police in Paris.

French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen delivers a speech in Henin-Beaumont, April 23, 2017. (AFP/joel SAGET)
French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen delivers a speech in Henin-Beaumont, April 23, 2017. (AFP/joel SAGET)

Crowds of young people, some from anarchist and “anti-fascist” groups, gathered on the Place de la Bastille in eastern Paris as results came in from the first-round vote.

Police fired tear gas to disperse an increasingly rowdy crowd. Riot police surrounded the area.

Protesters have greeted several of Le Pen’s campaign events, angry at her anti-immigration policies and her party, which she has sought to detoxify after a past tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.

The selection of Le Pen and Macron will present voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the European Union’s future and France’s place in it.

With Le Pen wanting France to leave the EU, and Macron wanting even closer cooperation between the bloc’s 28 member states, the projected outcome Sunday means the presidential runoff would have undertones of a referendum on France’s EU’s membership.

Following the announcement of the results of the first round of a presidential election, anti-fascists clash with police forces as they demonstrate in Paris, April 23, 2017. (AFP/THOMAS SAMSON)
Following the announcement of the results of the first round of a presidential election, anti-fascists clash with police forces as they demonstrate in Paris, April 23, 2017. (AFP/THOMAS SAMSON)

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