Projected results in the ongoing French presidential election have it that two of the major contenders, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are through to the runoff election coming up in May.
The centrist Macron and far-right leader Le Pen won 23.7% and 21.7% respectively after the first round of voting, French TV says.
The two saw off a strong challenge from centre-right François Fillon and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, according to the projections and will face each other in the run-off scheduled for vote May 7.
Whoever wins the next round, the voting marks a shift away from the leftist and centre-right parties that have long dominated French politics.
Le Pen leads the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant National Front party. She has attempted to soften the party’s tone and brought big gains in the 2015 regional elections.
She has urged a shake-up of France’s relations with the EU, calling for negotiations followed by a referendum.
After reaching the run-off, she hailed the result as “historic”, vowing to defend the French nation and its “independence”.
Macron on the other hand served as economy minister under current President Francois Hollande.
Despite his relative inexperience – he has never served as an MP – polls see him defeating Le Pen in the second round.
He told the media after the results emerged that a “new page in French politics” was being turned.
Macron is also likely to attract support from the political establishment.
Defeated rival Fran ois Fillon has already endorsed him.
In other projections, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose popularity surged on the back of strong debate performances, is tipped to win around 19.5% of the vote.
Fran ois Fillon, whose campaign was rocked by corruption allegations, is on the same mark while Benoit Hamon of President Hollande’s Socialist party lags far behind on 6%.
The six other candidates running were all on single figures.
President Hollande himself decided against running amid poor ratings.
Turnout nationally appears to be similar to the last election in 2012, at about 80%.
Nearly 60,000 police and soldiers were deployed across the country to secure polling, with France still reeling from the shooting of a policeman on the Champs Elysees.