The pro-EU and radically centrist Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential runoff today by a decisive margin, taking 66 percent of the vote against 34 percent for the far-right party National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in a historic election that is bound to shake up European politics for decades to come. Even in defeat, Le Pen polled the most votes in her party’s history – she is projected to have got 11 million votes, almost double of those of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was the National Front’s candidate in the 2002 presidential run-off election.
Macron’s rise has been meteoric, as he was virtually unknown in France not as far back as three years, and came into the public eye when the outgoing president Francois Hollande appointed him as the economy minister. Since then, the 36-year-old former investment banker and civil servant quit Hollande’s Socialist Party to found En Marche!, a centrist political movement in April 2016, under whose banner he ran for president. Macron campaigned on pledges to ease labour laws, improve education in deprived areas and extend protections for self-employed people. He has tapped anger at the traditional political left and right in the general populace, with France’s economy struggling and under increasing pressure in the European Union, and the country facing its largest influx of immigrants since the Second World War. The spate of terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere by IS militants has not helped the perception of a sinking France amongst the French people. Arguably, it was the same sentiment that helped the almost equally stunning rise of Marine Le Pen, the
The spate of terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere by IS militants has not helped the perception of a sinking France amongst the French people. Arguably, it was the same sentiment that helped the almost equally stunning rise of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who advocates for France leaving the Eurozone and eventually the European Union, as well immigration control measures that opponents argue are draconian and banking on racist. Le Pen has styled the election as being between her party’s “patriots” and the “globalists” whom she says Macron represents.
The election was marked by drama and scandals, especially towards the end, when in a Hillary Clinton-style hack, a pile of Macron campaign emails were hacked and dumped on WikiLeaks by unknown people in an attempt to smear him and swing the popular vote towards Le Pen.
In Brussels and Berlin, there was a sigh of relief that Le Pen’s anti-EU, the anti-globalisation programme was defeated. A spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said it was a “victory for a strong and united Europe” while the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said French voters had chosen a “European future”. The office of the British prime minister, Theresa May, said she “warmly congratulates” Macron on his victory and “we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities”.
Trump, who will meet Macron on 25 May at the Nato summit in Brussels, tweeted: “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next president of France. I look very much forward to working with him!” Earlier in the campaign, he had declared Le Pen the strongest candidate.