‘France has won!’
Pro-EU Emmanuel Macron becomes France’s youngest president in history.
Ripping up France’s political map, French voters elected independent centrist Emmanuel Macron as the country’s youngest president Sunday, delivering a resounding victory to the unabashedly pro-European former investment banker and strengthening France’s place as a central pillar of the European Union.
At a victory party outside the Louvre Museum in Paris, Macron supporters roared with delight at the news, waving red, white and blue tricolour flags. The jubilant crowd swelled to thousands as the night wore on.
“A new page in our long history is opening tonight. I want it to be one of hope and renewed confidence,’’ Macron said.
Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent in the presidential runoff, quickly called the 39-year-old Macron to concede defeat after voters rejected her “French-first’’ nationalism by a large margin. Macron, in a solemn televised victory speech, vowed to heal the social divisions exposed by France’s acrimonious election campaign and bring “hope and renewed confidence’’ to his country.
“I know the divisions in our nation that led some to extreme votes. I respect them,’’ he declared, unsmiling. “I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a large number of you also expressed. It is my responsibility to hear them.’’
The result wasn’t even close: With four-fifths of votes counted, Macron had 64 per cent support to Le Pen’s 36 per cent.
Le Pen’s performance dashed her hopes that the populist that which swept Donald Trump into the White House and led Britain to vote to leave the EU would also carry her to France’s presidential Elysee Palace.
Macron’s victory marked the third time in six months — following elections in Austria and the Netherlands — that European voters shot down far-right populists who wanted to restore borders across Europe. The election of a French president who championed European unity could also strengthen the EU’s hand in its complex divorce proceedings with Britain.
Parisians lined streets outside his campaign headquarters as Macron left in a motorcade to join the party at the Louvre. There, the European anthem “Ode to Joy’’ played as Macron strode out to address his supporters.
“France has won!’’ he said. “Everyone said it was impossible. But they did not know France!’’
Saying Le Pen voters backed her because they were angry, he vowed: “I will do everything in the five years to come so there is no more reason to vote for the extremes.”
Many French voters had backed him reluctantly, simply to keep out Le Pen and her National Front party, which has a long anti-Semitic and racist history.
After the most closely watched and unpredictable French presidential campaign in recent memory, many voters rejected the runoff choices altogether. Pollsters projected that French voters cast blank or spoiled ballots in record numbers Sunday.
Congratulatory messages poured in from abroad. Trump tweeted congratulations on what he called Macron’s “big win’’ and said he looked forward to working with the French leader. Macron has said he wants continued intelligencesharing with the United States and co-operation at the United Nations and hopes to persuade Trump not to pull the U.S. out of a global accord fighting climate change.
Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, laced his welcome for Macron with a warning to the French, saying: “If he fails, in five years Mrs. Le Pen will be president and the European project will go to the dogs.’’
Macron becomes not only France’s youngest-ever president but also one of its most unlikely. Until now, modern France had been governed either by the Socialists or the conservatives. Both Macron and Le Pen upended that right-left tradition.
“France has sent an incredible message to itself, to Europe and the world,’’ said Macron ally Francois Bayrou, tipped among his possible choices for prime minister.
Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron kiss as they celebrate outside the Louvre museum in Paris, Sunday. Centrist Emmanuel Macron is France’s next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world’s biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave.