French election results: Emmanuel Macron wins

Macron garnered 58.5% of the vote on Sunday, making him the first French leader to be re-elected in 20 years. He and Le Pen advanced to the second round after finishing first and second respectively among 12 candidates who showed up in the first round on April 10.

While the contest was a rematch of the second round of the 2017 French presidential election, much of Europe watched the election with unease. A Le Pen presidency would have fundamentally changed France’s relationship with the European Union and the West, at a time when the bloc and its allies look to Paris to play a leading role in tackling some of the biggest challenges. world, especially the war in Ukraine.

And if Macron’s speech to voters in a globalized and economically liberal France at the head of a muscular European Union prevailed over Le Pen’s vision of a radical inward turn, the 41.5% of people who voted for her bring the French far right closer to the presidency than ever before.

Le Pen’s performance is the latest indication that the French public is turning to hardline politicians to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo. In the first round, far-left and far-right candidates accounted for more than 57% of the votes cast.

Many who were unhappy with the last two candidates stayed home. The electoral abstention rate for the second round was 28%, according to the French interior ministry, the highest for more than 50 years. In fact, more voters abstained than voted for Le Pen.

Macron supporters, gathered on the Champs de Mars in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in central Paris, broke into massive cheers when the news was announced. The celebration was noticeably more low-key than after Macron’s victory in 2017, although he walked again to deliver his speech on the European anthem, commonly known as “Ode to Joy”.

In his victory speech, Macron vowed to be the “president of all of you”. He then thanked his supporters and acknowledged that many, like in 2017, had voted for him simply to block the far right.

Macron said his second term would not be a continuation of his first, pledging to solve all of France’s current problems.

He also spoke directly to those who supported Le Pen, saying that as president he had to find an answer to “the anger and disagreements” that led them to vote for the far right.

“It will be my responsibility and that of those around me,” Macron said.

Le Pen delivered a concession speech within half an hour of the first screening, addressing his supporters gathered at a pavilion in the Bois de Boulogne in western Paris.

“A great wind of freedom could have blown over our country, but the polls decided otherwise,” Le Pen said.

Yet Le Pen acknowledged the fact that the far right had never performed so well in a presidential election. She described the result as “historic” and a “brilliant victory” which puts her political party, the National Rally, “in an excellent position” for the June legislative elections.

“The game isn’t quite over,” she said.

A two-week sprint to the finish

Macron and Le Pen have spent the past two weeks criss-crossing the country wooing those who did not vote for them in the first round.

Macron has had to convince voters to back him again despite a mixed record on domestic issues, such as his handling of the yellow vest protests and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Le Pen’s campaign tried to capitalize on public anger over pressure on the cost of living by campaigning to help people cope with inflation and rising energy prices – a major concern for the French electorate – rather than relying on the anti-Islamist, anti-immigration and Eurosceptic stances that dominated his first two bids to win the presidency in 2017 and 2012.

She has presented herself as a more mainstream and less radical candidate, although much of her manifesto has remained the same as five years ago. “Stopping uncontrolled immigration” and “eradicating Islamist ideologies” were the two priorities of his manifesto, and analysts said many of his policies on the EU would have put France at odds with the bloc.

Although Le Pen has dropped some of her more controversial political proposals, such as leaving the European Union and the euro, her views on immigration and her position on Islam in France – she wants to make the wearing of the headscarf illegal. in public for women – has not changed.

“I think the headscarf is a uniform imposed by the Islamists,” she said during the one and only presidential debate on Wednesday. “I think the vast majority of women who wear them can’t do otherwise in reality, even if they dare not say so.”

Macron's win is a relief for the West, but historic far-right vote signals looming threat

But Vladimir Putin was perhaps his greatest political responsibility. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Le Pen was a strong supporter of the Russian president, even visiting him during his 2017 campaign. His party also took out a loan several years ago from a Russian bank. -Czech that he always reimburses.

Although she has since condemned the invasion of Moscow, Macron attacked Le Pen on his previous positions during the debate. He argued that he could not be trusted to represent France against the Kremlin.

“You talk to your banker when you talk to Russia. That’s the problem,” Macron said during the debate. “You cannot properly defend the interests of France on this subject because your interests are linked to people close to Russian power.”

Le Pen said his party had been forced to seek funding abroad because no French bank would approve the loan request, but the defense apparently failed to find an echo.

CNN’s Simon Bouvier, Xiaofei Xu, Camille Knight and Elias Lemercier contributed to this report.

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