Le Pen on of­fen­sive in runoff against Macron in French elec­tion.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­GELA CHARLTON AND ELAINE GAN­LEY

PARIS | France’s es­tab­lished par­ties are rallying around the man who helped shut them out of the pres­i­den­tial runoff, mav­er­ick cen­trist and for­mer banker Emmanuel Macron — an al­liance of con­ve­nience aimed at keep­ing far-right Marine Le Pen out of the El­y­see Palace.

Sup­port for Mr. Macron also poured in Mon­day from the seat of the Euro­pean Union, as well as Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and Jewish and Mus­lim groups trou­bled by Ms. Le Pen’s na­tion­al­ist, anti-im­mi­gra­tion vision.

Euro­pean stock mar­kets surged, and France’s main in­dex hit its high­est level since early 2008, as in­vestors gam­bled that the rise of pop­ulism around the world — sym­bol­ized by Bri­tain’s vote to leave the EU and Pres­i­dent Trump’s elec­toral vic­tory last year — may have peaked.

For all the paeans to Mr. Macron’s uni­fy­ing vision in di­vided times, it is now up to French vot­ers to de­cide whether to en­trust him with this nu­clear-armed na­tion in the May 7 pres­i­den­tial runoff. Polls con­sider Mr. Macron, who has never held elec­tive of­fice, the front-run­ner but that’s no guar­an­tee that the French will come to­gether to stop Ms. Le Pen the way they stopped her fa­ther, Jean-Marie Le Pen, from reach­ing the pres­i­dency in an­other two-way race in 2002.

France’s di­vided po­lit­i­cal main­stream, re­jected by an an­gry elec­torate, united Mon­day to urge vot­ers to back Mr. Macron and re­ject Ms. Le Pen’s far-right agenda.

Politi­cians on the mod­er­ate left and right, in­clud­ing French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande and the los­ing So­cial­ist and Repub­li­can Party can­di­dates in Sun­day’s first-round vote, ma­neu­vered to block Ms. Le Pen’s path to power.

In a solemn ad­dress from the El­y­see Palace, Mr. Hol­lande said he would vote for Mr. Macron, his for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter, be­cause Ms. Le Pen rep­re­sents “both the dan­ger of the iso­la­tion of France and of rup­ture with the Euro­pean Union.”

Vot­ers nar­rowed the French pres­i­den­tial field from 11 to two in Sun­day’s first-round vote, and losers from across the spec­trum called on their sup­port­ers But the early polls — which proved highly ac­cu­rate in Sun­day’s vote — give Mr. Macron 62 per­cent of the vote and Ms. Le Pen just 38 per­cent in head-to­head match-up, although two weeks of in­tense campaigning still lie ahead.

Ms. Le Pen, mean­while, is hop­ing to peel away vot­ers his­tor­i­cally op­posed to her Na­tional Front Party, long tainted by charges of racism and anti-Semitism. On Mon­day, she took a step in that di­rec­tion, an­nounc­ing she was tem­po­rar­ily step­ping down as party leader, a move that ap­peared to be aimed at draw­ing a wider range of po­ten­tial vot­ers and was in keep­ing with her ef­forts in re­cent years to gar­ner broader sup­port from the left and right.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

French far-right leader and can­di­date for the 2017 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion Marine Le Pen will face off against Emmanuel Macron in May 7 pres­i­den­tial runoff.

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