French presidential election live updates: Macron faces Le Pen in runoff

credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Versailles, France – The French are said to vote with their hearts in the first round and their heads in the second.

But voters in different cities near Paris appear to use both when casting ballots on Sunday, further evidence that France’s two-way voting system encourages unusually strategic thinking.

Twelve candidates participated in the poll. But with polls showing the second round likely to be a rematch between President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, voters were already considering the standoff scheduled for April 24.

At Versailles, the conservative Roman Catholic voting center, a centre-right candidate, Valerie PecresIt was a local favourite. But it was in the single digits in most opinion polls.

After the City Hall vote, a couple given only first names — Karl, 50, and Sophie, 51 — said they voted for Eric Zemmourthe far-right TV analyst who ran an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim campaign.

“I am in favor of selective immigration, rather than the current situation where we have immigrants seeking to take advantage of the French system,” said Karl, who works in real estate. He added that he voted for Macron in 2017, but was disappointed by the president’s immigration policies and his failure to reform the pension system.

This time, he and Sophie, the legal counsel, said they would support Ms Le Pen in the run-off because they believed she had gained credibility.

For Grégoire Pique, 30, an engineer with an interest in the environment, his choice was Yannick Jadot, green filter. But with Mr. Gadot lagging in the polls, Mr. Pique endorsed the old left-wing leader, Jean-Luc Melenchonranked third in most opinion polls.

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In the second round, Mr. Pique said, he intends to reluctantly vote for Mr Macron to block Ms Le Pen.

“I don’t like that principle,” he said, “but I will.”

About 10 miles from Versailles, in Trappes, a working-class city with a large Muslim population, similar calculations were made.

credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Georgette Savonni, 64, a retired transport worker, said he voted from his heart for Mrs. Pécresse, even though he knew she had little chance of making the second round. Two days from now, he has said he intends to reluctantly vote for Macron, as well as to stop Ms Le Pen.

“I agree with most of Macron’s economic programmes, and I feel he has handled the pandemic very well,” Savonni said. “But I feel he has no respect for people and is arrogant.”

Bilal Ayed, a 22-year-old university student, wanted to support a left-wing secondary candidate, but backed Mr. Melenchon, the lead candidate on the left. He said that in the second round, although he believed Ms Le Pen, as president, would be more terrible for France than Mr Macron, he was unable to forgive the president for what he said were repressions of personal liberties, such as the violent crackdown on the anti-government yellow vest movement.

“I don’t vote in the second round,” he said. “I’m staying at home.”

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