PARIS – Emmanuel Macron secured a comfortable victory over the right challenger Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election despite widespread political discontent resulting in the lowest voter turnout in more than half a century.
The incumbent Macron, of the La République en Marche political party, will of course win in a stiff competition with a vote share of between 57.3% and 58.2%, according to the analyses – based on the polls. sample ballots from about 300 polling stations around the country – produced by several French television stations.
Despite the fact that the average results of the last poll show Macron leading Le Pen by about 10 percentage points, with the gap widening after a tight finish in the first round of the second round of elections. Last week, the results would have been a huge relief for leaders across Europe.
Macron, who will continue to lead the European Union’s second largest economy and sole nuclear power for another five years, is only the third president of France to be re-elected in the Fifth Republic, starting beginning in 1958.
“This is a clear victory,” said Clément Beaune, foreign minister in charge of European affairs under Macron. “It’s important, it’s very important, because this is a political war, a political war against the far right.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted her “Congratulations” Macron, “[rejoicing] to be able to continue our great cooperation. Together, we will move France and Europe forward.”
But while the odds of victory are huge, the result shows a tightening in voting since the pair went head-to-head in 2017, when Macron resoundedly defeated his right-wing National Democratic opponent. with 66.1% of the vote.
Le Pen, who has pledged to hold an immigration referendum, ban the wearing of the headscarf in public places, withdraw from NATO and oppose the Russian oil and gas embargo, won the highest percentage of votes ever for the far right.
Following the election results, Le Pen appeared to have reversed her previous comments about her retirement plans and confirmed she would “continue my commitment to France and the French people”, adding: “It’s not over yet.”
Concerns about the possibility of many hesitant voters or those who chose to abstain entirely have dominated the final weeks of the election campaign. The abstention rate among France’s 48.8 million eligible voters is predicted at 28%, the highest since 1959, indicating public dissatisfaction with the selection of candidates. according to suggestion.
“The high abstention is very worrying,” said Isabelle Le Breton-Falézan, a lecturer in French political science at the Sorbonne University. “In 2017, Macron was seen as an optimist, a new promise, a disruptor. That’s not the case anymore. This represents a rejection of both candidates rather than a vote in favor of Macron. His legitimacy may be questioned.”
Macron, a 44-year-old former Rothschild banker, is frequently accused by critics of being an arrogant “president of the rich” and his first term saw millions take to the streets. Protesting under jaunes, or yellow vests, the anti-establishment movement became a symbol for those forgotten by his government.
Macron’s election strategy has positioned itself as less prone to the two evils and attracted the participation of the “Republican Front” – a historic coalition of voters who defied the odds. Political distinctions traditionally campaigned to stop a far-right president, as seen in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen, Father of Marine, was beaten by Jacques Chirac.
While the French economy has performed impressively through the pandemic, voters have been unhappy with Macron’s increasingly right-wing and pro-business agenda, which includes tax cuts for businesses and the highest earners and policies that critics say are aimed at Muslims and open up space to the far. in French politics.
“What we will have to remember is that Macron helped spread a lot of ideas and extremely correct discourse,” said Aurelien Mondon, an expert on French political mainstreaming at the University of Bath. “He made it stronger and legitimized it even more. Will he continue to do so in his second term? ”
During a televised debate on Wednesday, Macron made a strong statement and spoke about the links between Le Pen’s far-right party and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her Nationalist Party received a number of loans from Russia in 2014, including a $9.75 million loan from the Kremlin-linked First Russian Czech Bank.
But analysts say that despite Sunday’s victory, Macron faces significant obstacles in winning enough support in June’s parliamentary elections to be able to run effectively. and would have to face a country where only a fervent minority supported his liberal international views. In the first round of the election, nearly 60 percent of voters supported candidates from the far-right or far-left.
Le Breton-Falézan added: “It will be a serious test. “Legislative elections will be very different from presidential elections and Macron’s party is much more fragile.”
Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has emerged as a surprise king after finishing third in the first round with 21% of the vote, has called on voters to make him prime minister in the election. legislative election.
Mélenchon said: “Mrs Le Pen was beaten. “France has clearly refused to entrust its future to her, and this is very good news for the unity of our people. However, Emmanuel Macron became the worst elected president of the Fifth Republic. His victory is floating in an ocean of abstentions and spoiled votes.”