Emmanuel Macron, independent centrist and former investment banker, who had never fought an election before, won convincingly over far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in the French presidential race. This proved to be a historic election in various aspects as neither candidate belonged to the traditional French parties. The unparalleled campaign was marked by scandal and repeated surprises.
According to the French interior ministry, Emmanuel Macron was elected French president with an estimated 66% votes, while rival Marine Le Pen managed to grab just 34% votes. At the age of 39, Macron becomes the country’s youngest president. France’s 47 million voters chose their president from among radically different platforms: the free-trade, the pro-EU policies of Macron’s En Marche! (Let’s Go!) party and the protectionist nationalism of Le Pen’s National Front.
Macron made huge gains, bagging majority votes from the first-round supporters of the two left-wing candidates Jean-Luc Melenchon and Benoit Hamon. Moreover, Macron won almost half of the votes of those who voted for centre-right candidate Francois Fillon in round one. Conversely, Le Pen made most of her second-round gains by bagging votes from Fillon’s supporters and managed to secure around 10% of those of Melenchon’s supporters. As expected, more than one-third of Melenchon’s supporters refrained, but this was not enough to hurt the president-elect. However, the outcome gave the National Front a new legitimacy, even as results showed the party remained anathema to much of the French electorate due to its history of anti-semitism, racism and Nazi nostalgia.
Emmanuel Macron pledged to heal France’s gaps after his victory, stating he would work to address the concerns exposed in one of the most divisive campaigns in recent history. Macron commented, ‘I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them. I know the anger, the anxiety, and the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them.’ Macron’s immediate challenge would be to secure the majority in next month’s parliamentary election for political movement La Republique En Marche (Onward the Republic) to implement his programme.
Eurozone breathes a sigh of relief!
Macron’s victory has offered significant relief to the EU, which Le Pen threatened to leave. Additionally, Macron’s campaign to relax labour rules, make France more competitive globally and deepened ties with the EU is likely to reassure the global financial markets, which were jittery at the prospect of Le Pen’s victory. Moreover, the victory came as a huge sigh of relief to European allies, who feared another populist upheaval following Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as president of the US. Macron plans to work to recreate the link between Europe and its people. The French president, who champions the unity of Europe, could also strengthen the EU’s hand in its complex divorce proceedings with Britain.
With this historic win, Macron takes charge of a nation that, when Britain leaves the Union in 2019, would become the EU’s sole member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.