Le Pen's run-off campaign targets far left and right

Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron and anti-immigration leader Marine Le Pen began a final duel for the French presidency Monday, after a first round of voting delivered a stunning blow to the traditional political class.

Sunday's outcome is a huge defeat for the two centre-right and centre-left groupings that have dominated French politics for 60 years, and also reduces the prospect of an anti-establishment shock on the scale of Britain's vote last June to quit the European Union, and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. He told media that he initially voted for Mélenchon, but would now switch his vote to pro-globalist candidate Macron in the second round of the French presidential elections on 7 May.

What will a potential victory for Le Pen mean for France and Europe?

The defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to back Mr Macron, and Ms Le Pen's National Front is hoping to do the once-unthinkable and gain the support of voters historically opposed to a party long tainted by racism and anti-Semitism. Nine other candidates were eliminated.

Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders is a stark contrast with Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.

"The voters who voted for Mr. Melenchon are angry voters".

In April 2016, the 39-year-old launched his own centrist political movement, En Marche! He says there is no such thing as French culture.

"The nice thing about putting a black swan, geopolitical disaster situation behind you is you can start focusing on fundamentals", said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in NY.

"The risks of a possible new scandal, strong debate performance by the National Front leader or complacency from the electorate should still be monitored". "There is not one domain that he shows one ounce of patriotism".

"She's been in the political system for 30 years", he said. Now that it's Le Pen versus Macron, and the European Union and the country appear to be temporarily saved-or at least prevented from turning into a neo-fascist, backwater hellhole (with great pastries)-markets are breathing a huge sigh of relief.

But there were also other candidates that had markets on edge: representing the right was former prime minister François Fillon, who is also a good friend of Vladimir Putin; and on the far left was Jean Luc Mélenchon, who not only wants France to leave the E.U. but also the monetary union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Manuel Valls, a former Socialist prime minister on the right-wing of the party who broke with Hamon's campaign after failing to beat him for the party ticket, said he would be ready to work with Macron.

Le Pen, who is herself bidding to make history as France's first female president, follows in the footsteps of her father, who founded the National Front and reached the second round of the presidential election in 2002. "So she is in a truly bad position to be talking about the elites".

  • Jon Douglas