Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron resoundingly won France’s landmark presidential election, first estimates showed Sunday, heading off a fierce challenge from the far-right in a pivotal vote for the future of the divided country and Europe.
The victory caps an extraordinary rise for the 39-year-old former investment banker, who will become the country’s youngest-ever leader. He has promised to heal a fractured and demoralised country after a vicious campaign that has exposed deep economic and social divisions, as well as tensions around identity and immigration.
Initial estimates showed Macron winning between 65.5 percent and 66.1 percent of ballots ahead of Le Pen on between 33.9 percent and 34.5 percent. Unknown three years ago, Macron is now poised to become one of Europe’s most powerful leaders, bringing with him a hugely ambitious agenda of political and economic reform for France and the European Union.
The result will resonate worldwide and particularly in Brussels and Berlin where leaders will breathe a sigh of relief that Le Pen’s anti-EU, anti-globalisation programme has been defeated.
After Britain’s vote last year to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the US, the French election had been widely watched as a test of how high a tide of right-wing nationalism would rise.
Le Pen, 48, had portrayed the ballot as a contest between Macron and the “globalists” — in favour of open trade, immigration and shared sovereignty — and her “patriotic” vision of strong borders and national identities.
Outgoing President Francois Hollande, who plucked Macron from obscurity to name him minister in 2014, said voting “is always an important, significant act, heavy with consequences” as he cast his vote.
Macron will now face huge challenges as he attempts to enact his domestic agenda of cutting state spending, easing labour laws, boosting education in deprived areas and extending new protections to the self-employed.
The philosophy and literature lover is inexperienced, has no political party and must try to fashion a working parliamentary majority after legislative elections next month.
His En Marche movement — “neither of the left, nor right” — has vowed to field candidates in all 577 constituencies, with half of them women and half of them newcomers to politics. —AFP