PARIS (JTA) — Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right party, received more votes than any other challenger in the presidential elections’ first round, ensuring her a runoff against President Emmanuel Macron.
The two squared off in 2017, when Macron handily defeated Le Pen. This year’s election appears likely to be far more competitive, with Le Pen polling within points of Macron, a centrist.
Eric Zemmour, another far-right politician who is Jewish, received only 7% of the vote in the first round, eliminating him from this year’s election. Under the French electoral system, the top two vote-getters square off in a second election, this year set for April 24.
With 98% of the votes in Sunday’s first round counted, Macron received the largest share of votes, 28%, according to French elections data. But Le Pen of the National Rally party — founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a convicted Holocaust denier — garnered 23% of the vote.
In third place was Jean-Luc Melenchon, a far-left politician who supports boycotting Israel and has condemned French Jews for supporting Israel. Jewish leaders in 2017 said that Le Pen and Melenchon both posed threats to French Jews.
In 2017, Le Pen received a third of the vote, her party’s best performance yet in a presidential elections. But her efforts to soften her image, combined with public dissatisfaction over Macron’s leadership, has her poised to do far better this time around.
Still, Le Pen is accused by her critics of anti-Muslim racism. She recently said she would ban the wearing of all head scarves in public if she is elected president.