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World media welcome Macron first-round lead

media Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Trogneux, after the results were announced RFI/Pierre René-Worms

Most of the world's media heaved a sigh of relief at the result of France's presidential election first round on Monday. But there was one dissonant note in the US.

Perhaps ironically in the wake of Brexit, media across the Channel are hailing the strong showing of pro-European Emmanuel Macron, while adding that far-right Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen's second-place success should not be ignored.

"The threat from the French extreme right has not gone away," warns the centre-left Guardian.

Macron faces challenges

The Financial Times predicts the 7 May runoff will be an "act of coronation" for Macron. Dangerous words given the unhappy history of crowned heads here in France.

But the Financial Times warns that governing will not be easy, saying Macron could be forced into hard bargaining to implement his reform agenda.

Mainstream defeated

Papers in several countries are pointing to the historic defeat suffered by the mainstream left and right, with the US financial daily the Wall Street Journal calling the vote a "stunning rebuke of France's mainstream political forces".

In an article headlined "France torn apart", Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes that more than 40 percent of voters yesterday cast ballots for either the far right or the far left.

Macron's victory is so narrow that in the two previous presidential elections he wouldn't have won a place in the second round, the Frankfurt-based daily says, warning against assumptions the centrist will win easily next month.

French politics broken

Swiss daily Le Temps says the result is a sign that the French republic is "broken" and that voters want "deep change".

The second round, according to the Geneva-based paper, is "set to oppose two visions of France -- one inclusive and open to the world and its concerns, and the other cut off behind its borders and its old myths".

The stakes are high, the Swiss daily says: "The final choice of the French will change their country but also the face of the world."

Fox pitches for Le Pen

An opinion piece on America's right-of-centre Fox News website says le Pen is still in with a good chance and compared the situation to US President Donald Trump's shock win, saying: "She may pull off an even bigger surprise than the Tweeter in Chief. Yuge, in fact."

The New York Times is struck by Macron's strange status as someone who has set himself apart from establishment parties and yet who clearly hails from the political and social elite.

"His profile is that of an insider, but his policies are those of an outsider," the NYT says. "If the precocious Mr Macron is to succeed, his first challenge will be to sell himself, a product still largely unfamiliar to almost everyone," according to the New York daily.

Europeans relieved

Poland's centre-left Gazeta Wyborcza has expressed relief that the prospect of a French exit from the EU -- which could spell disaster for the bloc -- appeared slightly further off as polls show Macron likely to beat Le Pen in the run-off.

"The European Union needs to survive the divorce with Britain that has just begun. But Frexit -- a French departure from the union -- would have buried the European project. And that's what National Front leader Marine Le Pen threatened," according to the Polish paper.

The BBC says France is "entering uncharted political waters" and notes that, whoever came out on top in the next round, the country remains "deeply divided".

A comment piece in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, calls the election results "a political earthquake".

Optimism attracts voters

In an editorial headlined "The hope of Macron", Spain's top-selling daily El Pais said the young centrist's success "points the way that traditional parties must follow if they want to reconnect with their voters".

"The man who is shaping up to become the youngest president of the French Republic has broken through in a France engulfed in crisis and pessimism," El Pais says.

"His optimistic outlook on the future of the country and of Europe seduced voters at a time of rising populism, nationalism and xenophobia."

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