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FirstFT: Emmanuel Macron to face Marine Le Pen in French election run-off

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Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen will face each other in the second and final stage of the French presidential election on April 24 after beating the other candidates in the first round of voting on Sunday, according to early estimates.

With two-thirds of the votes counted, polling agency estimates based on results so far showed Macron winning about 28 per cent and Le Pen 23-24 per cent of the first-round votes, ahead of the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon with 20-21 per cent.

The result of Sunday’s vote suggests that the 53-year-old Le Pen is closer than ever to winning power for the far right in France and emulating the nationalist victories of Donald Trump in the US and supporters of Brexit in the UK six years ago.

Le Pen is sceptical of the EU, has said she would withdraw from Nato’s military command structure and has in the past been an admirer of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. If she wins it would send shockwaves across Europe and the world at a time when Russian forces are waging war on European soil in Ukraine.

Alluding to her plan to go beyond her supporters in the far-right Rassemblement National party, Le Pen said she planned to be president of “all the French”. She told cheering supporters that the final vote in two weeks would be to decide the fate of “society and even of civilisation” and that if she won she would restore the country’s “prosperity and grandeur”. These comments follow the theme of her campaign, during which she has strongly addressed the country’s cost of living issue.

The latest on the war in Ukraine:

© Zohra Bensemra /Reuters
  • The Big Read: Amid accusations of crimes against humanity committed by Russian forces, a question arises of whether the international justice system will be able to prosecute the country’s leaders.

  • Diplomacy: Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer meets Russian president Vladimir Putin today. He is the first European leader to do so since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began six weeks ago.

  • Support for Ukraine: British prime minister Boris Johnson met Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Saturday to pledge additional financial and military aid.

  • Military briefing: Western allies must find a balance between supplying aged kit from former Warsaw pact countries with providing more modern, western-sourced weapons which may require extensive training when time is short.

  • World food prices: Global food prices soared 34 per cent in March compared with the same period last year as the war in Ukraine hit the supply of grains and vegetable oils, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.

  • Energy markets: Japan will ban Russian coal imports, joining the EU and G7 allies to target the country’s energy sector for the first time following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. However, EU member states are at loggerheads over demands for an immediate blockade on Russian oil imports.

  • Opinion: Russia’s war in Ukraine has revived the market preoccupation with central banks’ foreign reserves. The issue, explains markets editor Katie Martin, is not whether the dollar will be replaced, but whether smaller currencies take a bigger slice of the pie.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Send any feedback on today’s newsletter to firstft@ft.com. — Sophia

1. Oil and gas revenues give Russia’s economy a $3.4bn cushion Moscow has boosted the fund that cushions its sanctions-hit economy, thanks to rising energy prices since the start of its war with Ukraine, as it edges closer to its first debt default since 1998.

2. Pakistan set to confirm Shehbaz Sharif as new prime minister After Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif is expected to take the country’s top job after a parliamentary vote today. Sharif could remain in power until Pakistan goes to the polls again in August 2023. No prime minister has ever completed a full term, but Khan is the first to be removed by parliament in a no-confidence vote.

3. US to visit Solomon Islands amid China security pact tensions In a rare high-level visit, the White House’s top Asia official, Daniel Kritenbrink, will fly to the Solomon Islands this month. The trip underscores Washington’s fears that Beijing will gain a strategic toehold in the Pacific, which have intensified after the leak of a draft security pact.

4. Peter Thiel accuses ‘finance gerontocracy’ of holding back bitcoin Libertarian tech investor Peter Thiel yesterday accused some of the most powerful players in finance of trying to suppress bitcoin. Speaking at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, Thiel dismissed revered investor Warren Buffett as a “sociopathic grandpa from Omaha” and said JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon and Larry Fink, head of BlackRock, were part of a “finance gerontocracy”.

5. Goldman Sachs offers former partners exclusive access to ‘1869 fund’ The fund invests across multiple private funds managed by the firm’s asset management division. Former partners include Gary Gensler, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Steven Mnuchin, who worked as US Treasury secretary in the Trump administration. Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s former prime minister, is also an ex partner.

Coronavirus digest

  • Shanghai reported a record 24,952 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as residents remain confined to their homes. Meanwhile, internet censors have cracked down on online complaints about difficult conditions and food shortages in the city.

  • The reluctance for repeated booster shots has driven expected global sales of vaccines to 6bn, down from an earlier forecast of 9bn doses.

The day ahead

The EU foreign affairs council gathers in Brussels. The war in Ukraine is a key topic on the agenda.

The Bank of Japan holds its quarterly branch managers’ meeting today, with opening remarks delivered by governor Haruhiko Kuroda.

Sign up for the FT’s subscriber webinar on the French presidential election today (Monday 11 April) at 5pm London time (midnight Hong Kong) where FT journalists and guests will discuss the results of the first round of voting and their likely impact on France and the rest of the world. Get your free ticket for subscribers at ft.com/francevotes.

What else we’re reading

Long Covid is an invisible health crisis that’s fuelling labour shortages An estimated 100mn people worldwide suffer from long Covid and many of them have been forced to leave the workforce entirely owing to the debilitating effects of the illness. This has added to an already tight labour market and some companies see it as a serious risk to their business.

© FT

How Kyiv was saved by Ukrainian ingenuity and Russian blunders Ukrainian forces won the battle for the country’s capital with the help of low tech items like gym mats which blocked Russian thermal imaging. Russian mistakes, such as not knocking out Kyiv’s air defence system, helped hand a victory to Ukrainian troops.

Is a new era of financial warfare about to dawn? Alphaville editor Robin Wigglesworth looks to the long-term impacts of sanctions on Russia. Such sanctions might become a tempting weapon to deploy more often if the backlash is likely to be minimal and the impact potentially severe.

America and China — the defining relationship Competitive co-operation or containment? Martin Wolf reviews two books that set out opposing views on how the US should approach its relationship with superpower rival China.

Social media has fully weaponised morality Even as we use the bullhorn of the internet to be more vocally moral, society has become less ethical, rife with inequality and disinformation. From corporate messaging to casual speech, our collective discourse has become deeply concerned with goodness, writes Dan Brooks.

Food & Drink

Fungi are hot in the science community right now, with a vast new frontier opening up that makes the space race look like a school project. Tim Hayward explores why the future is at our feet.

A selection of fungi
A selection of fungi

Working It — Discover what’s shaking up the world of work with work & careers editor Isabel Berwick. Sign up here

Disrupted Times — Your essential FT newsletter about the changes in business and the economy between Covid and conflict. Sign up here

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