Macron, Le Pen shown ahead in French presidential race: projection

Macron, Le Pen shown ahead in French presidential race: projection

Polling agency projections show far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron leading in the first-round French presidential election.

The results could set up a duel between a young candidate with no electoral experience and the woman who remade the image of a party tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.

The race is seen as a litmus test for the spread of populism and could help determine Europe’s future. With most polls just closed, it remained too early to say who advances to the May 7 runoff. Close behind were far-left contender Jean-Luc Melenchon and conservative Francois Fillon.

The projections are based on vote counts in select constituencies, then extrapolated nationwide. If Le Pen and Macron’s leads hold, it would be the first time in modern French history that no major-party candidate has advanced.

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Online: Associated Press reports