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.
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.
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.