France one step closer to new president

With some 40 million ballots counted, Macron is leading the French presidential race with 23.54% of the vote, followed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen with 22.33%. In a defiant speech to supporters, he said he would continue to await the results from France's cities.

He called for hope in Europe instead of fear, a reference to Le Pen's anti-European Union campaign. She portrayed her duel with Macron as a battle between "patriots" and "wild deregulation" - warning of job losses overseas, mass migration straining resources at home and "the free circulation of terrorists".

The founder of the political movement "En Marche!", Emmanuel Macron, announced his victory in the first round of French presidential election, saying that he was determined "to become the president for all the French people". Officers fired tear gas to disperse the rowdy crowd. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hard-left socialist-turned-communist who surged in the polls in the final weeks of the campaign, won just under 20% of the vote, neck-and-neck with Fillon, eclipsing Hamon with just 6%.

"They (the people) chose to put me to the first place in the first round of this vote, and I appreciate the honor and great responsibility that was bestowed on me", Macron continued. "He will win because he is able to unite people from the right and the left against the threat of the National Front and he proposes real solutions for France's economy".

Last night, rival politicians, including Fillon, the nominee of the conservative Republican Party, began to rally around Macron to prevent Le Pen from taking the presidency.

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After many years of high unemployment and a steady drumbeat of political scandals, voters turned their backs on the establishment and instead backed a political newcomer in Macron and a far-right candidate in Le Pen.

At 7 p.m. local time (17:00 GMT) the voting ended as the polling stations across France closed.

Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, who was far behind in Sunday's results, quickly conceded defeat.

Numerous voters who spoke to The Canadian Press said they weren't overly enthusiastic about Macron but believed he would eliminate Le Pen in the second round.

The election is the first in the history of France's 59-year-old Fifth Republic to take place under a state of emergency.

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