Emmanuel Macron: The first president in French to win a second term in two decades

Emmanuel Macron: The first president in French to win a second term in two decades

After winning re-election on Sunday against competitor Marine Le Pen in a race that saw the far right come closest to gaining power yet, French President Emmanuel Macron is set to begin attempts to reconcile a severely divided country.

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

Macron is the first French president to win a second term in two decades, but his triumph over his far-right opponent was closer than their previous meeting in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent.

On Sunday night, the French president’s jubilation were dimmed by the extreme right’s historic gains. In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, addressing supporters

The 44-year-old president will begin his second term facing the challenge of legislative elections in June, where maintaining a majority would be crucial to achieving his goals.

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

Macron’s new era

In his victory speech on the Champ de Mars in central Paris, Macron promised his next five-year term would respond to the frustrations of voters who backed Le Pen.

“An answer must be found to the anger and disagreements that led many of our compatriots to vote for the extreme right,”

he told thousands of cheering supporters.

“It will be my responsibility and that of those around me.”

He also promised a “new method” for managing France, noting that this “new age” would not be a continuation of the previous term, which is now coming to a close.

Le Pen, 53, said she would “never abandon” the French and was already planning for the June legislative elections in a fiery speech to supporters in the capital, in which she acknowledged the loss but showed no sign of quitting politics.

“The result represents a brilliant victory,”

she said to cheers.

“We commence the great war for the parliamentary elections this tonight,” Le Pen declared, adding that she has “hope” and urging opponents of the president to join her National Rally (RN) party.

After years of work to make herself electable and distance her party from the heritage of its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, a third defeat in a presidential election will be a tough pill to swallow for Le Pen.

Critics claimed her party never stopped being extreme-right and racist, while Macron regularly mentioned her promise to ban the Muslim headscarf from being worn in public if she is elected.

The estimates brought a sigh of relief to Europe, which had feared that a Le Pen presidency would leave the continent adrift after Brexit.

Macron’s victory 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.”

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

Slovenia’s three-time Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who has been branded an authoritarian right-wing populist by opponents, was in danger of losing power to a party run by political newcomer Robert Golob in another election on Sunday.

Ocean of abstention

After a first term marred by riots, then the coronavirus pandemic, and finally Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Macron will be hoping for a less problematic second term that will allow him to carry out his agenda of greater pro-business reform and tighter EU integration.

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

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

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

Hard-left contender Jean-Luc Melenchon, who finished third in the first round, had refused to endorse Macron.

Melenchon is also looking forward to the June elections.

While Melenchon hailed Le Pen’s defeat as “extremely positive news for our people’s unity,” he pointed out that the two main candidates had only managed to garner a third of registered voters’ support.

Macron said that he was “submerged in an ocean of abstentions and spoiled ballots.”

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