Live French election updates: Macron faces tough challenge from Le Pen

CreditAndrea Mantovani for The New York Times

VERSAILLES, France — The French, it is said, vote with their hearts in the first round and with their heads in the second.

But voters in various towns near Paris appeared to use both when voting on Sunday, further evidence that France’s two-round voting system encourages unusually strategic thinking.

Twelve candidates were in the running. But with polls showing the second round will most likely be a rematch between President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, voters were already thinking about the showdown scheduled for April 24.

In Versailles, center of the conservative Roman Catholic vote, center-right candidate Valérie Pécresse was the local favorite. But she was in the single digits in most polls.

After voting for mayor, a couple who gave only their first names – Karl, 50, and Sophie, 51 – said they voted for Éric Zemmour, the far-right television pundit who led an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim campaign.

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

This time he and Sophie, a legal consultant, said they would support Ms Le Pen in the second round as they felt she had gained credibility.

For Grégoire Pique, 30, an engineer concerned about the environment, his choice fell on Yannick Jadot, the Green candidate. But with Mr Jadot languishing in the polls, Mr Pique endorsed long-time left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, ranked third in most polls.

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

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

About fifteen kilometers from Versailles, in Trappes, a working-class town with a large Muslim population, similar calculations were made.

Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Georget Savonni, 64, a transport retiree, said he voted with his heart for Ms Pécresse, even though he knew she was unlikely to qualify for the second round. In two Sundays, he said, he planned to reluctantly vote for Mr. Macron, also to arrest Mrs. Le Pen.

“I agree with most of Macron’s economic programs, and I think he’s handled the pandemic very well,” Savonni said. “But I feel like he doesn’t respect people and is arrogant.”

Bilel Ayed, 22, a university student, wanted to support a minor candidate on the left, but supported Mr. Mélenchon, the leader of the list on the left. In the second round, he said, even though he thought Ms Le Pen, as president, would be far more terrible for France than Mr Macron, he was unable to forgive the president for what he did. described as repression of individual freedoms. , such as the violent repression of the anti-government Yellow Vest movement.

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

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