PARIS (AP) — Emmanuel Macron won a second term as French president by beating his far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday after a campaign in which his promise of stability trumped the temptation of an extremist shakeup.
Projections at the close of the vote, which are generally reliable, showed Macron, a centrist, getting 58.5 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5 percent. His victory was much narrower than in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 per cent to 33.9 per cent for Le Pen, but wider than seemed likely two weeks ago.
Speaking to a crowd gathered on the Champ de Mars in front of a glittering Eiffel Tower, a solemn Macron said his was a victory for “a more independent France and a stronger Europe.” At the same time he acknowledged “the anger that has been expressed” during a bitter campaign and that he had a duty to “respond effectively”.
Ms Le Pen conceded defeat in her third bid to become president, but bitterly criticized Mr Macron’s “brutal and violent methods”. She promised to continue fighting to secure a large number of representatives in the June legislative elections and declared that “the French have shown tonight their desire for a strong counter to Emmanuel Macron.”
At a critical moment in Europe, with the fighting in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, France rejected a candidate hostile to NATO, the European Union, the United States and its core values that no French citizen should be discriminated against. because they are muslims.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defense minister, said the result reflected “the mobilization of the French people for the upholding of its values and against a narrow view of France.”
In general, the French do not love their presidents, and none had managed to be re-elected since 2002. Macron’s unusual achievement in securing five more years in power reflects his effective handling of the Covid-19 crisis, his revival of the economy , and his political agility to occupy the entire center of the political spectrum.
Ms. Le Pen, softening her image if not her nationalist anti-immigrant program, rode a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the extreme right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined the mainstream, even if at the last moment, many French seem to have voted for Macron to ensure that France does not succumb to the xenophobic vitriol of the darkest passages in its history.
Ms. Le Pen is a longtime supporter of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom she visited in the Kremlin during his last campaign in 2017. He would almost certainly have pursued policies that weakened the allied united front to save Ukraine from Russian assault, offered Putin a loophole to exploit in Europe, and undermined the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment to she. .
If Brexit were a blow to unity, a French nationalist quasi-exit, as set out in Ms Le Pen’s proposals, would have left the European Union on life support. That, in turn, would have crippled an essential guarantor of peace on the continent at a volatile time.
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, declared that Macron’s victory was “a vote of confidence in Europe”. Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, congratulated the French leader, calling France “one of our closest and most important allies.”
Mr Scholz and two other European leaders had taken the unusual step this week of making clear the importance of a vote against Ms Le Pen in an op-ed in the daily Le Monde. The letter was a reflection of the anxiety in European capitals and in Washington that preceded the vote.
“It is the choice between a Democratic candidate, who believes that France is stronger in a powerful and autonomous European Union, and a far-right candidate, who openly sides with those who attack our freedom and our democracy, fundamental values. that come directly from the French Enlightenment,” they wrote.