Senior French conservatives and Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon said on Sunday that they would back centrist Emmanuel Macron in a May 7 runoff against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
After initial projections indicated Macron and Le Pen had qualified for the second round, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon told supporters his party had suffered an “historic blow” from its voter base and called on voters to back Macron and reject Le Pen in “the strongest possible way.”
On the other side of the traditional political spectrum, former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a member of defeated candidate Francois Fillon’s The Republicans party, said: “Without hesitation, as far as I’m concerned we’ve got to rally behind Emmanuel Macron.”
WATCH: Candidates vote in French election
Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are set to face each other in a May 7 runoff for the French presidency after coming first and second in Sunday’s first round of voting, early projections indicated.
In a race that was too close to call up to the last minute, Macron, a pro-European Union ex-banker and economy minister who founded his own party only a year ago, was projected to get 24 percent by the pollster Harris and 23.7 percent by Elabe.
Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration and anti-EU National Front, was given 22 percent by both institutes. Three further pollsters all projected broadly similar results.
Though Macron, 39, is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, opinion polls in the run-up to the ballot have consistently seen him winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Le Pen easily.
WATCH: French expats in Montreal react to first-round election results
Defeated Socalist candidate Benoit Hamon urged voters to rally behind Macron in the second round, as did senior conservative lawmaker Francois Baroin from the camp of defeated right-wing candidate Francois Fillon.
Harris gave both Fillon and far-left contender Jean-Luc Melenchon 20 percent, which will mean their elimination from the race.
Fillon had consistently been polling third in surveys leading up to the election. French senator and key Fillon supporter Roger Karoutchi told reporters: “The first indications are not good.”
The result, if confirmed, will mean a face-off between politicians with radically contrasting economic visions for a country whose economy lags that of its neighbors and where a quarter of young people are unemployed.
WATCH: French voters narrow choice for president to Macron, Le Pen
That in turn reduces the prospect of an anti-establishment shock on the scale of Britain’s vote last June to quit the EU and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
Early indications from Reuters data showed the euro currency jumping to a four-week high around $1.09 in response to the early projections, from $1.0726.
Macron favors 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.
Whatever the outcome on May 7, it will mean a redrawing of France’s political landscape, which has been dominated for 60 years by mainstream groupings from the center-left and center-right, both of whose candidates faded.
WATCH: Obama calls French presidential candidate days before voters cast ballots
Macron ally Gerard Collomb said the defeat of the mainstream center-left Socialists and the center-right Republicans showed a “deep malaise” in French society.
The final outcome on May 7 will influence France’s standing in Europe and the world as a nuclear-armed, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and founding member of the organization that transformed itself into the European Union.