Emmanuel Macron defeats Marine Le Pen for second term as French President

PARIS – Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, winning this past Sunday Marine Le Penhis far-right challenger, after a campaign where his promise of stability prevailed against the temptation of an extremist.

End-of-vote projections, generally reliable, showed Mr Macron, a centrist, with 58.5% of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5%. His victory was much narrower than in 2017, when margins were 66.1% to 33.9% for Ms. Le Pen, but broader than likely appeared two weeks ago.

Addressing a crowd gathered on the Champ de Mars in front of the glittering Eiffel Tower, Mr Macron solemnly said his victory was a victory for “a more independent France and a stronger Europe”. “Our country has a lot of doubts, a lot of divisions,” he added. We will have to be strong, but no one will be left on the side of the road. ”

Ms Le Pen acknowledged the failure of her third attempt to become president, but harshly criticized Mr. Macron’s “brutal and violent methods” without explaining what she meant. She vowed to fight to secure a large number of representation in the legislative elections in June, claiming that “The French people have tonight to express their desire for a strong opposition power. with Emmanuel Macron.”

At a pivotal time in Europe, with fighting raging in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, France rejects a candidate hostile to NATO, to the European Uniontowards the United States, and for its fundamental values ​​that no French citizen should be discriminated against because they are Muslim.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Foreign Minister, said the result reflected “the mobilization of the French to uphold their values ​​and to counter a narrow vision of France”.

The French generally don’t love their president, and no one has succeeded in getting re-elected since 2002, let alone by a 17-point margin. Mr. Macron’s unusual record of securing another five years in power reflects his ability to effectively manage the Covid-19 crisis, the resurgence of the economy and political acumen. his work in occupying the entire center of the political spectrum.

Ms Le Pen, reducing her image if not for her anti-immigration nationalist show, has created a wave of alienation and disgust to bring totalitarianism closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party joined the mainstream, even as many Frenchmen at the last minute explicitly voted for Mr Macron to ensure that France does not succumb to the xenophobia of dark times. in its history.

Ms. Le Pen is a longtime sympathizer of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, whom she visited in the Kremlin during her last campaign in 2017. She will almost certainly pursue policies that weaken the united allied front in order to save Ukraine from a Russian attack. ; suggested Mr. Putin violate to exploit in Europe; and undermining the European Union, whose motive has always been the joint commitment between France and Germany to it.

If Brexit is a blow to unity, a French nationalist, as outlined in Ms. Le Pen’s proposals, will leave the European Union for life support. . That, in turn, would paralyze an essential guarantor of peace on the continent in a tumultuous time.

Olaf Scholz, German chancellor, declared that Mr. Macron’s victory was “a vote of confidence in Europe.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated the French leader and called France “one of our closest and most important allies”.

Mr Scholz and two other European leaders took the unusual step of clarifying the significance of the vote against Ms Le Pen last week in an article in the daily Le Monde. The letter reflects anxiety in European capitals and Washington ahead of the vote.

It is a choice between a democratic candidate, who believes that France is stronger in a strong and self-governing European Union, and a far-right candidate, who openly sided with the who attacked our freedom and our democracy.

Mr. Macron’s second victory feels different from his first. Five years ago, he was a 39-year-old man who burst onto the scene in French politics with his promise to bury insatiable divisions and build a more just, equal, open and dynamic society. He held a grand celebration in the main courtyard of the Louvre to mark the dawn of a new political era in France.

Sunday night, due to the war in Europe, he asked his supporters to stay awake. When Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the European hymn, plays (but much more softly than in 2017), he steps onto the Champ de Mars and holds the hand of his wife, Brigitte. Children surround the couple; The choreography conveys simplicity and humility.

Mr. Macron was often criticized for being distant and arrogant during his first term.

“We have avoided a certain form of violence. I feel relieved,” said Eric Maus, 64, a Macron supporter. “But I feel like I’m giving my daughter an uncertain world where the extreme must be very high.”

Mr. Macron has succeeded in boosting growth, reducing unemployment and imbued with startup technology culture, but fails to address growing inequality or the simmering anger of marginalized and disadvantaged people in urban and rural outlying areas. Social divisions were exacerbated as incomes stagnated, prices rose and factories moved abroad.

As a result, Mr. Macron’s political capital is more limited, even if his clear victory has saved France from a dangerous inclination towards xenophobic nationalism and propelled him ahead of the election. legislative elections in June.

However, many of the 7.7 million voters supported the leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round presidential election on April 10 voted only reluctantly for Mr. Macron to keep Ms. Le Pen from power. Assina Channa, an Algerian Muslim who voted in the suburb of Saint-Denis, north of Paris, said, “Nothing will change. but i have no choice. ”

Ms. Le Pen has proposed ban on Muslim headscarves and frequently equate Islam with violence in the country with the largest Muslim community in Western Europe. “At least he didn’t threaten us like she did,” Ms Channa said.

Mr. Macron acknowledged that “many of our countrymen voted for me today not to support my ideas but to to form a dam against the far right. ” He thanked them and said, “I am now entrusted with their sense of responsibility, their attachment to the Republic and their respect for the differences demonstrated over the past weeks.”

About 28% of voters abstained, 3 percentage points higher than in 2017 and it appears more than 13 million people voted for Ms Le Pen and the far right. “The anger and disagreements that prompted my compatriots to vote for this project must also find the answer,” Macron said.

It was a speech not of pomp but of sober realism, almost at times controversial, reflecting his recognition of a markedly divided France and perhaps also a lack of understanding. His attention goes to those whose life is most difficult.

The dream of 2017’s radical change has been superseded by fears of political confrontation over the summer, partly because the dislike of Mr. Legislative elections in June could lead to a Parliament. less agreeable.

Constantly adjusting his position, expanding his circle of allies and refining his ideas, Mr. Macron has proven himself to be a brilliant politician that will make any moderate challenger go unchallenged. breathless. He brought about the near-total collapse of the centre-left Socialist Party and the centre-right Republican Party, the two political forces at the heart of postwar French politics. That is a remarkable feat.

But there was a price to pay for all of this. The old structure of French politics has collapsed, and the reconciliation of violent conflicts in society is unclear.

Those conflicts became more acute as anger grew in parts of France that were looked down upon, or even forgotten, by elites in the big cities. By addressing these concerns, while also promising a series of tax cuts to help residents cope with rising gas and electricity prices, Ms. Le Pen built an effective campaign.

Her message, to some voters, is that she will care and protect them while their president appears to have other concerns. But her nationalist message also resonated among those angered by undocumented immigrants entering the country and seeking scapegoats for the country’s problems.

The president’s affairs have reflected both his personality and his political choices. His highly personalized top-down government style owes more to Bonaparte than to the democratic openness he has said he will introduce into the French presidential system. His efforts to force Europe to move forward in line with his vision of “strategic autonomy” backed by its own integrated military have met resistance in countries like Poland, most attached to the United States. as a European power.

Emerging from the moderate left in the political system and supported by many Socialists five years ago, Mr Macron has turned to the right both in his initial economic policy and in a decision much criticized for confronting what he called “Islamic separatism” by shutting down some mosques and Muslim associations – often on flimsy legal grounds.

He assesses that he has more to gain on the right than the fear of the divided left of the political spectrum in a country whose psyche has been profoundly marked by a number of terrorist attacks. Muslim father since 2015. In a sense, his victory proved him right, the master of a vast web of loyalties that can be tuned to confound his opponents.

Aida Alami, Aurelien Breeden, Adele Cordonnier and Constant Meheut contribution report.

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