France's Macron beats Le Pen to win second term
French President Emmanuel Macron has seen off his far-right rival Marine Le Pen to secure five years more years at the helm of Europe’s second economy. But the narrowing margin of victory and an increasingly polarised nation herald another rocky term for the incumbent.
Macron, 44, is the first president to secure re-election since Jacques Chirac 20 years ago. His back-to-back wins are no small feat in a country that has recently developed a taste for kicking out the incumbent at the first opportunity. It helped that on both occasions he faced a political force that a (shrinking) majority of the French still considers unfit for government.
At 58.8 per cent to Le Pen’s 41.2 per cent, Macron’s projected margin of victory ultimately exceeded most pollsters’ forecasts. Still, Sunday’s rematch produced a much closer outcome than in 2017, when the political upstart carried the day with 66 per cent of the vote. On her third attempt, Le Pen moved several steps closer to the Élysée Palace. Not since World War II has the nationalist far-right come this close to power in France.
“The ideas we represent have reached new heights,” Le Pen told supporters in a defiant speech, hailing a “shining victory” even as she conceded defeat. The 53-year-old vowed to “keep up the fight” and lead the battle against Macron in parliamentary elections in June.
After a turbulent five years in office marked by violent protests and a succession of Covid lockdowns and curfews, Macron relied on an uncertain coalition of ardent supporters and reluctant “tactical” voters determined to keep Le Pen out of power. In the end, it proved more than enough to hold off the “anti-Macron front” summoned by his challenger.
Le Pen had sought to frame the election as a referendum on the incumbent. She urged voters to “choose between Macron and France”. Some did see the contest that way. But more chose between Le Pen and the Republic.
“Many of our compatriots voted for me not out of support for my ideas but to block those of the far-right,” Macron told supporters at the Eiffel Tower, striking a more humble tone than he had on the campaign trail. “I want to thank them and I know that I have a duty towards them in the years to come,” he added, hinting at a more grounded style for the years to come.
Shortly after his re-election Macron said that the concerns of those who had abstained from voting or picked opposition candidate Marine Le Pen needed to be addressed.
"I also think of all our compatriots who abstained from voting. Their silence signified a refusal to choose, to which we must also respond," he said.
French far-right leader Le Pen said that she would keep up the political fight against President Emmanuel Macron in the run-up to June parliamentary elections, as she conceded defeat to the incumbent in France's presidential election.
"The French are showing tonight a wish for a strong counter-power against that of Emmanuel Macron, for an opposition that will continue to defend and protect them," she told supporters after early projections indicated she had lost the election.
Against a backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions that have exacerbated a surge in fuel prices, Le Pen's campaign homed in on the rising cost of living as Macron's weak point.
In the end, as viewer surveys after last week's fractious televised debate between the two testified, Le Pen's policies - which included a proposal to ban people from wearing Muslim headscarves in public - remained too extreme for many French.
Le Pen vowed to keep up the fight, with the June parliamentary elections in mind.
"I will never abandon the French," she said;
European Union leaders were quick to congratulate French President Emmanuel Macron on his election victory over his far-right rival, reflecting relief that one of the bloc's most pivotal countries had avoided a political shock.
European Council President Charles Michel, as well as European Union President, Ursula von der Leyen, were among the first to congratulate Macron, after his win over Marine Le Pen by a comfortable margin.
"Bravo Emmanuel," Michel wrote on Twitter. "In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union."
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the public face of Brexit for many Europeans, applauded the result, pledging cooperation with Macron and saying that "France is one of our closest and most important allies."
French left-wing newspaper Liberation was far from celebratory on Emmanuel Macron's comfortable win over far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday (April 24), despite heading off a political earthquake for Europe with his election win.
"Macron re-elected, thanks to who?," declared the daily newspaper on its front cover, referring to those who may have voted for him only to keep Le Pen out.