French President Emmanuel Macron is set to begin efforts to unite a deeply divided nation after winning re-election in a battle against rival Marine Le Pen that saw the far right come its closest yet to taking power.
Emmanuel Macron has comfortably defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen, heading off a political earthquake for Europe but acknowledging dissatisfaction with his first term and saying he would seek to make amends.
His supporters erupted with joy as the results appeared on a giant screen at the Champ de Mars park by the Eiffel tower on Sunday.
Leaders in Berlin, Brussels, London and beyond welcomed his defeat of the nationalist, eurosceptic Le Pen.
With 97 percent of votes counted, Macron was on course for a solid 57.4 percent of the vote, government figures showed. But in his victory speech he acknowledged that many had only voted for him only to keep Le Pen out and he promised to address the sense of many French that their living standards are slipping.
“Many in this country voted for me not because they support my ideas but to keep out those of the far-right. I want to thank them and know I owe them a debt in the years to come,” he said.
“No one in France will be left by the wayside,” he said in a message that had already been spread by senior ministers doing the rounds on French TV stations.
Le Pen, who at one stage of the campaign had trailed Macron by just a few points in opinion polls, quickly admitted defeat. But she vowed to keep up the fight with parliamentary elections in June.
“I will never abandon the French,” she told supporters chanting “Marine! Marine!”
Relief in Europe
Macron is the first French president to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002 after his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande left office after only one term.
He will be hoping for a less complicated second term that will allow him to implement his vision of more pro-business reform and tighter EU integration after a first term shadowed by protests, then the pandemic and finally Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
But he will have to win over those who backed his opponents and the millions of French who did not bother to vote.
On the basis of the official figures, polling organisations estimated that the abstention rate was on course for 28 percent which, if confirmed, would be the highest in any presidential election second-round run-off since 1969.
The outcome of the first round on April 10 had left Macron, 44, in a solid but not unassailable position to retain the presidency.
A victory by Le Pen, accused by opponents of having cosy ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, would have sent shockwaves around the world comparable to the 2016 polls that led to Brexit in Britain and Donald Trump’s election in the United States.
Left-leaning EU leaders including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had pleaded with France in the run-up to the vote to choose Macron over his rival, in an unusual intervention published in Le Monde newspaper.
Scholz was the first foreign leader to congratulate Macron on his win.