French elections: President urges voters to back Macron over far-right's Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen celebrate victory in the first round of the French presidential elections. Credit: PA

The French President has urged voters to back centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the elections in a bid to keep far-right leader Marine Le Pen out of power.

On Sunday, 47 million people voted in the first round of the elections, with Mr Macron gaining 23.8% of the vote and Ms Le Pen, 21.5%.

Speaking at the Élysée Palace, François Hollande warned that Ms Le Pen's platform of pulling out of the euro would devastate France's economy and threaten the country's liberty.

President Hollande added that the far-right would "deeply divide France" at a time when the terror threat requires "solidarity" and "cohesion".

The defeated candidates in first round of the elections - François Fillon, of the centre-right, who took 19.91% of the vote, and hard-left nominee Jean-Luc Mélenchon who gained 19.64%, urged their supporters to back Mr Macron in the May 7, run-off.

High-profile European leaders have also given Mr Macron their backing.

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, told French people to get involved and defend the European Union, from Ms Le Pen's anti-EU stance.

A spokesperson for the European Union said Mr Macron represents pro-European values, while Ms Le Pen "seeks its destruction".

Mr Macron was Hollande's top economic advisor between 2012 to 2014, and was then France's economy minister in the Socialist government for two years.

In April 2016, the 39-year-old launched his own centrist political movement, En Marche! (In Motion!) to prepare his presidential bid as an independent centrist candidate. He quit the government a few months later.

The anti-EU Ms Le Pen's campaign majored on jobs, security and the threat from Islamic extremism.

It also saw her deny French state complicity rounding up Jews for the Nazis in the Second World War.