Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France with an emphatic victory on Sunday, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.
The centrist’s victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president, reported Reuters.
The 39-year-old former investment banker, who served for two years as economy minister but has never previously held elected office, will now become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon with a promise to transcend outdated left-right divisions.
Three projections, issued within minutes of polling stations closing at 8 p.m., showed Macron beating Le Pen by around 65 per cent to 35 per cent – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had predicted.
Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies until recently made it a pariah in French politics, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must try to heal.
Le Pen’s high-spending, anti-globalisation ‘France-first’ policies may have unnerved financial markets but they appealed to many poorer members of society against a background of high unemployment, social tensions and security concerns.
The 48-year-old’s share of the vote was set to be almost twice that won by her father Jean-Marie, the last National Front candidate to qualify for a presidential runoff, who was trounced by Jacques Chirac in 2002.
Macron’s immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for En Marche! (Onwards!), his political movement that is barely a year old, in order to implement his programme.
However, at least one opinion poll published in the run-up to the second round has indicated that this could be within reach.
With his victory, Macron has become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic’s foundation in 1958.
He said that a “new chapter of hope and confidence is opening”.
Macron’s supporters gathered to celebrate in central Paris after the bitterly fought election concluded on Sunday amid massive security.
The Macron team said that the new president had had a “cordial” telephone conversation with Ms. Le Pen.
In a speech she thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between “patriots and globalists” and called for the emergence of a new political force.
She said she had wished Macron success in tackling the “huge challenges” facing him.
President François Hollande congratulated Macron and said the result showed the French people wanted to unite around the “values of the republic”.
According to the BBC, Macron’s emergence was the most remarkable success story of how a man who three years ago was utterly unknown to the French public, through sheer self-belief, energy – and connections – forged a political movement that has trounced all the established French political parties.
Source: This Day