Paris, April 24 (IANS) Liberal centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen came out on top in the first round of the French presidential election, according to projections based on initial vote counts by polling agencies.
An updated estimation by research firm Elabe for local broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday indicates that former Minister of Economy Macron leads with 24 per cent of votes, and Le Pen 21.8 per cent, Xinhua news agency reported.
A total of 11 candidates participated in this year's race towards French presidency, and the two leading candidates are set to face off in the runoff on May 7.
At a gathering after the vote, Le Pen hailed the results as "historic", and expressed "profound gratitude" to her supporters.
She also called on voters to join her to create "national unity", promising to bring "great alternative" to the country.
According to French media reports, French president Francois Hollande congratulated Macron on the phone for advancing into the second round.
Right-wing conservative candidate and former Prime Minister Francois Fillon conceded defeat Sunday night, and vowed to vote for Macron in the runoff on May 7.