Macron is the first French president to win a second term in two decades, but his latest triumph against his far-right opponent was closer than their first meeting in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent.
Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to begin attempts to reconcile a bitterly divided nation after winning re-election on Sunday in a race against challenger Marine Le Pen in which the far-right came closest to capturing power yet.

According to official Interior Ministry figures, Macron received about 58.6 percent of the vote in the second-round run-off, compared to Le Pen’s 41.4 percent.

The far-historic right’s wins tempered the French president’s jubilation on Sunday night. Under a speech to supporters in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, he promised to mend rifts in a very divided society.

The 44-year-old president will begin his second term with the challenge of legislative elections in June, when maintaining a majority will be vital to ensure his aspirations are realised.

Hundreds of ultra-left activists flocked to the streets in many French towns to denounce Macron’s re-election and Le Pen’s victory. Police deployed tear gas to disperse crowds in Paris and Rennes, France.

‘New epoch’

Macron claimed in his victory speech on the Champ de Mars in downtown Paris that his next five-year tenure will address the grievances of those who supported Le Pen.

“An answer to the rage and differences that drove many of our countrymen to vote for the extreme right must be found,” he told hundreds of applauding supporters.

“It will be my duty, as well as the obligation of others around me.”

He also promised a “new approach” of managing France, adding that this “new age” would not be one of “continuity with the previous term, which is now coming to a close.”

Le Pen, 53, said she would “never forsake” the French and was already planning for the June parliamentary elections in a fiery speech to supporters in the capital, where she acknowledged the outcome but showed no sign of abandoning politics.

“The outcome reflects a fantastic win,” she declared amid applause.

“This tonight, we begin the big war for parliamentary elections,” Le Pen declared, adding that she had “hope” and urging President Macron’s opponents to join her National Rally (RN) party.

‘You can rely on France.’

A third defeat in a presidential election will be a tough pill to chew for Le Pen, who has spent years working to distance her party from the heritage of its founder, her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Critics said her party never stopped being extreme-right and racist, while Macron frequently emphasised her promise to prohibit Muslim headscarves from being worn in public if elected.

After worries that a Le Pen president would leave Europe adrift in the aftermath of Brexit and German chancellor Angela Merkel’s retirement from politics, the forecasts provided enormous comfort in Europe.

The triumph of Macron was hailed as “excellent news for all of Europe” by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said French voters “sent a strong vote of confidence in Europe today.”

European Council President Charles Michel said the EU could now “depend on France for five more years,” while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Macron and said she was “delighted to be able to continue our good partnership.”

In a separate election on Sunday, Slovenia’s three-time Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose opponents have labelled an authoritarian right-wing populist, faced losing power to a party run by political newcomer Robert Golob.

‘Ocean of abstinence’

After a first term marred by riots, a coronavirus epidemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Macron will be hoping for a less problematic second term that will allow him to achieve his vision of greater pro-business change and tighter EU integration.

However, he will have to win over those who backed his opponents as well as the millions of French who did not vote.

Turnout was predicted to be 72 percent, the lowest in any presidential election second-round run-off since 1969, according to polling agencies.

Meanwhile, 6.35 percent of voters cast blank ballots for neither candidate, while 2.25 percent spoiled their papers.

Hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, who finished third in the first round, has refused to support Macron.

Melenchon is also looking forward to the June elections.

While hailing Le Pen’s loss as “really positive news for the unity of our people,” Melenchon pointed out that the two main candidates had only garnered a third of registered voters’ support.

Macron described himself as “submerged in an ocean of abstention and spoiled ballots.”


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