French Presidential Polls: Macron Must Win Big to Fulfil Pledges

Paris: Round two of the bitter fight for the French presidency got under way on Monday within hours of first round results with far-right leader Marine Le Pen's top aide launching a stinging attack on her centrist opponent Emmanuel Macron.

It was a vote against the system as no major party made it to the run-off stage for the first time in contemporary French history.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 25 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,374.

Whichever candidate wins on May 7 will need to try to build a majority six weeks later in a parliament where the FN has only two seats and Macron's year-old En Marche!

National Front vice president Steeve Brios said: "The voters who voted for Mr Melenchon are angry voters".

USA stocks joined a worldwide rally after results from the first round of France's presidential election raised expectations that the European Union and euro currency will hold together.

Seeking to exploit Macron's lack of experience in the area, she told reporters in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont: "I'm on the ground to meet the French people to draw their attention to important subjects, including Islamist terrorism, on which Mr Macron is, to say the least, weak".

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Le Pen, who has been hoping to emulate Donald Trump's victory in the U.S., said the French faced a choice between "runaway globalisation" and a protectionist France. If that view is right then Emmanuel Macron ought to be the next president of France. "They can be in agreement with us", National Front Vice President Steeve Brios told The Associated Press.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen, who has campaigned on an openly xenophobic and racist platform, claimed the "survival of France" is at stake in the May 7 runoff. The turnout in the 2012 French presidential election was nearly identical. His contribution to the election was decisive too; in acting as the "spoiler" for Francois Fillon, he denied the once firm favourite a place in the second round by scooping up the votes of people who would have backed the Republicans, had it not been for the Penelopegate scandals. Socialist president Francois Hollande, the most unpopular in modern French record-keeping, did not seek re-election.

"This alleviates fears that we were going to have to navigate a French exit of the European Union", said Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

While their policies on higher education are unlikely to be the decisive factor in swaying the electorate, they are nonetheless - as I explore in a feature this week - revealing of the candidates' wider attitudes.

Sylvain Crepon, an FN specialist at Tours university, says Le Pen can not bridge the gap with Macron this time, but pressing those themes is vital for the party's future and its role in the reorganising of a political landscape shaken by a campaign which has seen both the major left-wing and right-wing parties tumble.

Thousands of new police would be brought in - though Ms Le Pen was not the only candidate to promise this - and thousands more prison places would be created.

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