Germany welcomes Macron success in French election first round

"This result is historic", Le Pen, 48, told supporters in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, declaring it "time to liberate the French people". Even if Le Pen springs a surprise on May 7, her "Freitas" ambitions will require constitutional change which experts say will be hard, especially as her National Front party only has a handful of federal lawmakers and is seen as highly unlikely to win anything like a majority in June's parliamentary elections.

Such a vote is "indispensable" in the second round, Kalifat wrote.

"We should not underestimate the capacity of resistance of other groups within societies, which are supporting more moderate parties", said Alain Dieckhoff, head of the Center for International Research at Sciences Po.

At least 47 million people are eligible to vote in France.

With a broad smile, Le Pen stood before an adoring crowd, said her National Front party will represent "the great alternative" to the French people and pledged to open a "much-needed" debate on globalization.

"I was really scared of a Fillon-Le Pen".

Analysts say the fact that opinion polls had consistently predicted a Macron-Le Pen run-off could boost market confidence because the polls suggest Macron should win easily in a second round.

"It is no secret that we will not be cheering madly should Sunday's result produce a second round between Le Pen and Melenchon", German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

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Macron, 39, is a former banker who is 18 years younger than the average age of past presidents in France.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman hailed Macron's success, tweeting: "Good that @EmmanuelMacron succeeded with his policy for a strong European Union and social market economy".

She called her runoff opponent the "heir" to current French President Francois Hollande.

It appears a peaceful left-wing protest was taken over by more radical leftists, who are intent on engaging in violence.

The confidence-boosting result adds a further gloss to the generally more benign picture of the world economy in recent months, and will damp fears that the US and Europe were being swamped by political uncertainty and support for extremist solutions. Macron favours gradual deregulation measures that will be welcomed by global financial markets, while Le Pen wants to ditch the euro currency and possibly pull out of the EU.

"It's a victory for openness, social-mindedness", Macron supporter Marie-Helene Visconti, a 60-year-old artist, told AFP at his election party where the European Union flag was waved alongside the French tricolore. But the main lines of attack against Macron would focus on social security, his "lack of proposals" on terrorism and his support for free trade. Second, I'm very happy because I was voting for Emmanuel Macron, and it's good news for France. "There is no choice but to vote against the extreme right", he said, adding that extremism would "only bring sadness and division" to France. The results will be seen as a credit to French pollsters, who successfully forecast the results.

French voters are choosing between 11 presidential candidates including, from left, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Benoit Hamon, Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon. Declaring "the left is not dead", he urged supporters to back Mr Macron.

Her advancement to the second round is not a position without precedent - her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made it to a runoff against the then-incumbent Jacques Chirac in 2002, only to suffer a devastating loss when anti-extremist voters rallied against the National Front leader. "The same could happen here", said Renette Decicco, a 78-year-old out shopping for food.