Emmanuel Macron has won a second term as French President after winning the run-off election by a clear 58 to 42 percent against his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.
The victory means Mr Macron, 44, will be able to continue his wave of public service reforms and continue his push for a more assertive European Union.
It will also be greeted with relief across Europe and in Washington, where the prospect of Ms Le Pen’s presidency would have undermined the EU as a bloc and threatened western unity on Ukraine, NATO and the climate crisis.
Mr. Macron, a liberal centrist, won by a much narrower margin than his 66 to 34 percent victory against Ms. Le Pen, 53, in 2017. However, it was still wider than many forecast two weeks ago, after the first-round vote, when some polls had him just two points ahead.
Speaking at a victory rally in Paris at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, he recognized that many votes were cast less for him than to keep out the extreme right.
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“I thank them and tell them that I am aware that this vote binds me for the years to come. I am the custodian of their attachment to the Republic,” he said Mr Macron, who cast his vote in the seaside town Le Touquet yesterday morning, said he was, “no longer the candidate of a party but the president of everyone,” and promised to work even harder for the environment, for jobs and to address the fractures in France.
Nonetheless, Ms Le Pen’s score marks a steady rise in the vote for the extreme right over the years, a trend that will worry the mainstream centre in France and the rest of Europe. In 2012, in her first run at the presidency, she won 17.9 percent. In 2002, her racist father, and founder of the Front National (National Front) party she inherited, won 17.8 percent in his run-off defeat against conservative Jacques Chirac.
Speaking a few minutes after the results, Ms Le Pen, 53, hailed her “historic score”, and said, “In this defeat, I sense some hope, a great defiance by the French people.” She said she would keep fighting for, “this forgotten France, we will never forget” and said her score of more than 40 percent of the vote “represents a great victory.
Millions of our compatriots have chosen the national camp and change,” before leading her supporters in a rendition of ‘La Marseillaise’.
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Mr Macron’s victory marks the first re-election of a sitting French president in two decades and the first time since Charles de Gaulle in 1965 that the French re-elected a president who has a majority in the National Assembly. Although there were fears about the record 28 percent abstention rate, it does not appear to have affected the final result.
Mr Macron is widely seen by the French public as arrogant, aloof and elitist, but is credited with delivering solid economic results over the past five years, despite the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic. His approval ratings dipped to 25 percent in 2018, the year of the gilets jaunes or yellow jacket protests, but is now at 43 percent, boosted in part by his perceived competence in managing the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Mr Macron was congratulated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who noted that France is one of Britain’s closest and most important allies, and said, “I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world.”
His victory was hailed by German Chancellor Olaf, who said the result represented “a renewed commitment towards Europe,” by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi as “a magnificent victory for all Europe,” and by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said, “I am delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation.”
The focus now turns to June’s scheduled National Assembly elections on June 12 and 19, where Mr Macron’s liberal centrist party, La République En Marche, is expected to struggle to retain its majority.
The radical leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who won 22 percent in the first round, has called the parliamentary vote the ‘third round’ of the elections, calling on the broad left of centre voters to make him prime minister.
Mr Mélenchon, leader of La France Insoumise (Unbowed France), a fierce critic of both Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen, says that if elected, he will ensure an uncomfortable parliamentary ‘cohabitation’ with Mr Macron.
After the result, he noted the abstention rate which meant Mr. Macron was only elected by a third of registered voters, and said, “The third round begins tonight”.