PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron was comfortably re-elected on Sunday for a second term, according to projections by polling agencies. Amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, the result offered the European Union assurance of stable leadership in the bloc’s only nuclear power and was immediately hailed by France’s allies.
A second five-year term for the 44-year-old centrist has spared France and Europe the seismic upheaval of a handover of power to incendiary populist Marine Le Pen, Macron’s presidential candidate who quickly conceded defeat but still seemed on the right track. – never shown.
Acknowledging that “many” voters voted for him simply to steer clear of Le Pen’s fiercely nationalist far-right policies, Macron pledged to reunite the country “filled with so many doubts, so many divisions” and to work to quell the voter anger that fueled Le Pen. Pen’s campaign.
“No one will be left by the wayside,” he said in a victory speech against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower and a projection of the blue-white-red French tricolor.
“We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times when France must make its voice heard,” he said, as several hundred supporters joyfully waved French and European flags at the Daft Punk rhythm. Once again.”
During her campaign, Le Pen pledged to dilute France’s ties with the EU27, NATO and Germany, moves that would have undermined Europe’s security architecture as the continent faces its worst conflict since World War II. Le Pen has also spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy supplies and has come under scrutiny during the campaign due to her previous friendship with the Kremlin.
A chorus of European leaders hailed Macron’s victory. “Democracy wins, Europe wins,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
“Together, we will move France and Europe forward,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed Macron’s victory as “splendid news for all of Europe” and a boost for the EU “as the protagonist of the greatest challenges of our time, starting with war. in Ukraine”.
Le Pen won support in response to his work to make his policy more palatable
Five years ago, Macron won a landslide victory over Le Pen to become France’s youngest president at 39. The margin should be much smaller this time: polling agencies Opinionway, Harris and Ifop predicted on Sunday that Macron would win at least 57% of the vote. vote.
Le Pen was expected to garner between 41.5% and 43% support – still an unprecedented result for the 53-year-old in her third bid to win the French presidency.
The first official results of the second round of the French presidential election are expected later Sunday evening. If projections hold, Macron would become just the third president since the founding of modern France in 1958 to win twice at the polls, and the first in 20 years since incumbent Jacques Chirac beat Le Pen’s father. in 2002.
Le Pen called his results “a resounding victory”, saying that “in this defeat, I can’t help but feel a form of hope”.
Crossing the threshold of 40% of the vote is unprecedented for the French far right. Le Pen was beaten 66% to 34% by Macron in 2017 and her father got less than 20% against Chirac.
She and far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, one of 10 candidates eliminated in the first round on April 10, quickly contested France’s June legislative elections, urging voters to give them a parliamentary majority to cripple Macron. .
Le Pen’s score this time rewarded his years-long effort to make his far-right policies more palatable to voters. Campaigning fiercely on cost-of-living issues, she made deep inroads among blue-collar voters in disgruntled rural communities and in former industrial hubs.
This time, voters knew Macron — and some didn’t like him
The predicted drop in support for Macron from five years ago portends an uphill battle for the president to rally the people behind him in his second term. Many French voters found the 2022 presidential rematch less compelling than in 2017, when Macron was an unknown factor, having never previously held elected office.
Voters on the left – unable to identify with either the centrist president or Le Pen’s fiercely nationalist platform – were left angst over the choices available on Sunday. Some reluctantly went to polling stations only to arrest Le Pen, happily voting for Macron.
“It was the least worst choice,” said Stephanie David, a transportation logistics worker who backed a communist candidate in the first round.
It was an impossible choice for retired Jean-Pierre Roux. Having also voted communist in the first round, he dropped an empty envelope into the ballot box on Sunday, rebuffed by both Le Pen’s politics and what he saw as Macron’s arrogance.
“I’m not against his ideas but I can’t stand the person,” Roux said.
On the other hand, Marian Arbre, voting in Paris, voted for Macron “to avoid a government that ends up with fascists, racists”.
“There is a real risk,” worried the 29-year-old.
Findings have implications for the war in Ukraine
Macron came to the vote with a considerable lead in the polls, but faced a fractured, anxious and fatigued electorate. The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic challenged Macron’s first term, as did months of violent protests against his economic policies, which created fertile ground for Le Pen.
With the EU’s only seat on the UN Security Council and the only nuclear arsenal, the outcome in France was being watched across the 27-nation bloc. France has played a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and supplies arms to Ukraine.
Appealing to working-class voters struggling with soaring prices, Le Pen vowed that lowering the cost of living would be his priority and argued that Macron’s presidency had left the country deeply divided.
Macron has sought to appeal to voters with immigrant and religious backgrounds, not least because of Le Pen’s proposed policies targeting Muslims and putting French citizens first in line for jobs and benefits. He also touted his environmental and climate achievements, hoping to attract young voters who backed left-wing candidates in the first round.