Ripping up France’s political map, French voters elected independent centrist Emmanuel Macron as the country’s youngest president, 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.
According to the official results announced, Macron wins 66.06 per cent of total votes. Le Pen got 33.94 per cent of the votes, BBC quoted the French Interior Ministry as saying.
The turnout in this runoff was nearly 74 per cent — the lowest in almost 50 years.
French media reported that Macron supporters came out on the streets in celebration while Le Pen called him up to congratulate him.
Thanking his supporters, Macron tweeted: “Let us love France. As of this evening and for the coming five years, I am going to serve with humility, with dedication, with determination, in your name.”
Earlier in the day, projections after the polls closed at 8 p.m. (Paris time) showed political novice Macron, who at 39 will be the youngest French President, had secured over 65 per cent of the vote, against his right-wing opponent, Marie Le Pen of the National Front, said the BBC.
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.
Unknown to voters before his turbulent 2014-16 tenure as France’s pro-business economy minister, Macron took a giant gamble by quitting Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government to run as an independent in his first campaign.
His startup political movement — optimistically named “En Marche! (Forward)” — caught fire in just one year, harnessing voters’ hunger for new faces and new ideas.
“I’m so happy, it feels so good! I lived the election of Donald Trump in New York, and now finally, after Brexit, after Trump, populism has been beaten in France,” said Pierre-Yves Colinet, a joyous Macron supporter at the Louvre victory party. “Today, I’m proud to be French.”
He also acknowledged the anger of many voters and vowed to protect the weakest members of society
“I will work to renew the links between Europe and its citizens. My duty is to alleviate fears and rekindle optimism. I will fight with all my strength against the divisions that separate us,” he said.
Twice in his speech, the president-elect acknowledged the risks France was facing by climate change and ecological dangers.
Le Pen called him up to congratulate him. She told her supporters at her campaign headquarters that the new divide in France is between “globalists and patriots”.