Who is the front-runner in France’s election?
A former investment banker Emmanuel Macron, is the Centrist frontrunner.
Despite having no experience in running a campaign before, he is tipped to beat his nationalist rival Marine Le Pen.
Macron heads an independent political movement "En Marche" (On the Move) that was founded in 2016.
Born on December 21, 1977 into a family of doctors in the northern city of Amiens, he attended the La Providence Jesuit school before moving to Paris where he joined the famous Henri-IV public secondary school.
He went on to study philosophy at the University of Paris-Ouest Nanterre, and pursued post-graduate studies at two of the most prestigious French schools, the Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) and Ecole nationale d'administration (ENA).
In 2008, he joined Rothschild & Cie as a financial investment banker and sealed a multibillion-pound deal of about €2 million between Nestle and Pfizer. Later on, in 2012, he joined Elysee as the deputy secretary-general
He met his wife when he was just 15. Chocolate maker heiress, divorcee and mother of three, Brigitte Trogneux was 24 years older than him and his drama teacher. Despite his parents disapproval the pair got married in 2007. In an interview with magazine "Paris Match," she said, "At the age of 17, Emmanuel said to me, 'Whatever you do, I will marry you!”
He served under President Francois Hollande as the Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, for two years from 2014 and was elected as the presidential candidate for his “En Marche” this year.
What are his plans for France?
Macron says he is "neither Left or Right" but “for France."
With a promise to make the least radical changes, he is a favourite among European governments and former US president Barack Obama.
His six main priorities include security, education, work, economic modernisation, democratic renewal and international engagement. He is credited with devising new ways for public investment with business-friendly policies.
One major plan is to end the 35-hour week for France’s younger workers.
"When you're young, 35 hours isn't enough. You want to work more and learn your job," he told Le Nouvel Observateur. However people in their 50’s will have a shorter working week.
A critic of the protectionist policies backed by the far right, Macron is an ardent supporter of the free market and globalisation.
As far as security is concerned, Macron plans to hire more police and build a strong and unified anti-terrorism intelligence unit.
He also plans to go big on green energy, public sector administration, training people to tackle unemployment, transport and justice by investing €50bn. Take-home pay will be increased by lowering taxes and labor cost will be slashed.
More freedom for school governance, few children in primary school classes and "culture-pass" worth 500 euros or 18-year-olds to discover France, buy books and visit museums are some of his priorities. He is also proposing regular competency checks of government ministers.
If elected, can Macron make good on his promises?
Winning the presidency is almost a given and Macron’s biggest challenge will be to form a majority in the National Assembly.
Macron is an independent and needs to cobble together a centrist majority in parliament in elections to be held in June. If he fails, Macron faces the prospect of an awkward relationship with rival and centre-right Francios Fillon’s supporters.
Parties from across the political spectrum have urged their supporters to vote for Macron and not the far-right’s Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s ballot.
But unlike the upcoming second round presidential race, Macron’s rivals will focus on defeating him in the parliamentary polls.
If Macron fails to secure a majority, he will not be able to chose a prime minister and will become a lame-duck president. His aspiration to reform France will be crushed.
To form a majority in the lower house of parliament, Macron needs 289 deputies, so far En March has endorsed 14.
A survey conducted by Opionway, showed that Macron could gain more than half the votes in the National Assembly, which will be dominated by En Marche and the conservative Republicains party. Politico wrote, this would decimate the ruling Socialist Party and Le Pen’s National Front Party would obtain 25 MPs at most.
“To get this majority, a lot of people would have to break party lines and take personal risks. It’s not going to be easy,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Gilles Moec said.