Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and Front National leader Marine Le Pen have won first and second places in the "premier tour", the first round of the French presidential elections, in a tighter contest than had been expected until a few days ago. Macron gained around 23.2% of the vote, with Le Pen on 21.7%. Republican Party (centre-right) candidate Francois Fillon and left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon were equal third, on 19.5%. Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon did even worse than expected, gaining only 6.5%, only a point or so above the best of the minor half-dozen candidates.

The result was a bonus for Macron and a setback for Le Pen, who had hoped to come first in the first round and thus be, however tenuously, the candidate presumptive. But the greatest loser was Francois Fillon, who, until, a few months ago, was seen as being unchallengeable. Charismatic and forceful, Fillon had promised to reform France's rigid institutions, public spending etc, and presented himself as the non-crony candidate, an image destroyed by revelations that his wife and other relatives had been on the payroll. Appearing on France 2 television to concede, he found it difficult to hide his bitterness -- at events, and being French, being itself I guess, la nature viscous de l'existence. Or, in English terms, shit sticks.

[Rundle: the future of Western politics might well be determined by the French election]