(Vatican Radio) Centrist Emmanuel Macron has gone through to the second round of the French presidential elections, where he will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen. With the votes counted, Macron stood at about 24 percent, followed by Le Pen with just over be on 21 percent.
Listen to Stefan Bos' report:
Official results showed that for the first time in six decades neither of France's main left-wing or right-wing parties will have a candidate in the upcoming run-off vote on May 7.
And if everything goes according to his plan, Centrist Emmanuel Macron, a former banker and seen as a political outsider, is replacing outgoing French President Francois Hollande.
At 39, Macron could now become the youngest president France has ever had.
Both Macron and Le Pen seemed to quarrel over who is the best patriot to move the economically troubled nation forward. In a victory speech to supporters, Macron used language favoured by his main rival to describe himself as the true patriot for France. "I hope in 15 days to become your president," prompting an enthusiastic response of applauding fans.
"I want to become the president of all the people of France -the president of the patriots in the face of the threat from the nationalists. I hope to become your president," he added.
While he is favored to win the ballot, 48-year-old Le Pen says she is still counting on all patriots to support her. "I am calling sincere patriots wherever they come from, whatever their origin, whatever their journey has been of who they voted for in the first round. I invite them all to join us and to abandon ancient quarrels because it is in the interest of the country," she said.
Their nearest challengers, centre-right François Fillon and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, will now look on as they fell behind, with just over 19 percent of the vote each in the first round.
Commentators described this as France's most important president election in more than half a century as it could determine the future of the European Union.
Le Pen's campaign for the Front National party centred on France leaving the 28-nation block, a move known as 'Frexit', as well as cracking down on immigration and free-trade.
Macron, who was current President Hollande's economy minister but quit to create his own party, En Marche, favors liberal, pro-EU policies.