What happens next in the French election?

Centrist Macron and far-right leader Le Pen will face off on May 7.

ByLENA MASRI
April 24, 2017, 3:20 PM

— -- Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen have advanced to the second round of the French presidential election.

Macron, a 39-year-old former banker, won 24 percent of the votes in the first round of the election Sunday, while Le Pen took 21.3 percent of the votes. People will return to the polls on May 7 to choose which of the two candidates, and their vastly different world views, they want for the future of their country. But a lot happens between now and then. Here’s what you need to know.

Who are the two candidates?

Macron founded his political party En Marche (Forward) a year ago, running on messages of hope, openness, and globalization. Previously, he served as French President Hollande’s protege and economy minister. Macron has described En Marche as "neither left nor right," but rather an attempt to transform the French political system, which he criticizes as being dominated by large interest groups.

The former investment banker has promoted both pro-business and socially liberal policies, giving him a centrist appeal that other candidates lacked. However, opponents have criticized him for being a political novice while pointing to unpopular measures he backed during his tenure in government. Among those measures was a law named after him that allowed businesses to open on Sundays and gave employers more negotiating power over workers.

Le Pen, 48, is an anti-European Union politician who has promised to dump the euro as France's currency if she is elected president. Many commentators have drawn parallels between Le Pen and Trump given the similarities in their views on free trade, NATO, and migration. But, unlike Trump, Le Pen comes from a family that has been on the French political scene for decades.

Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, ran for president five times and was the leader of the National Front party until 2011 when his daughter took over. Le Pen went on to distance herself from her father, who had made anti-Semitic remarks. She’s also attempted to recast the party as a serious anti-establishment political force, known more for its Euro-skeptic and anti-immigrant policies than for its historical reputation as xenophobic and racist.

Le Pen steps down as party leader

But after being at the helm of the National Front for years, Le Pen announced on French public television news that she would temporarily be stepping down as its leader.

"Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate," Le Pen said on Monday.

As a candidate, she often stressed that her ideas and platform were her own, not those of the National Front.

Memorial for Paris attack victim

Both Macron and Le Pen are expected to take part in a memorial for 37-year-old police officer Xavier Jugelé who was killed in Thursday’s shooting on the Champs-Elysees Boulevard in Paris. Current French President François Hollande, who will lead the commemoration, invited the two candidates to participate.

Live debate

Macron and Le Pen will face off in a live, televised debate on Wednesday, May 3, four days before the second round of the election.

Campaigning ends

The campaigns formally end midnight on Friday, May 5, giving voters a full day without polling or canvassing on Saturday.

Voting day

French voters head to the polls on Sunday, May 7 to elect their new president. Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., depending on location. The winner is expected to be announced Sunday night. President Hollande and the president-elect will set a date for the swearing-in ceremony after the results are called.

Parliamentary elections

After the presidential election, French voters will head to the polls again for two rounds of parliamentary elections on Sunday, June 11 and Sunday, June 18.

ABC News' Lora Moftah and Rym Momtaz contributed to this report.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events