Macron received 58.55% of the vote on Sunday, making him the first French leader to be re-elected in 20 years. He and Le Pen advanced to the run-off after placing first and second, respectively, among the 12 candidates who entered the first round on April 10.
While the contest was a rematch in the 2017 French presidential run-off, most of Europe watched the election with apprehension. Le Pen’s presidency could have fundamentally changed France’s relationship with the European Union and the West, at a time when the European Union and its allies are counting on Paris to take a leadership role in addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges — most notably the war in Ukraine.
And although Macron’s presentation to voters of a globalized and economically liberal France at the head of a strong European Union beat Le Pen’s vision of a radical inward turn, 41.45 percent of people who voted for it put the French closer to the far right. presidency ever.
Le Pen’s performance is the latest indication that the French public is turning to extremist politicians to express their displeasure with the status quo. In the first round, candidates from the far left and far right captured more than 57% of the votes cast.
Many of those unhappy with the last two candidates stayed home. The voter abstention in the run-off was 28%, according to the French Interior Ministry, the highest rate in the run-off since 2002.
Macron’s supporters, assembled on the Champs de Mars in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in central Paris, broke out to cheers from a crowd when the news was announced. The celebration was much less significant than after Macron’s victory in 2017, though he once again marched to deliver his address to the European anthem, commonly referred to as the “Ode to Joy”.
In his victory speech, Macron vowed to be “the president for each of you”. He then thanked his supporters and acknowledged that many, as in 2017, voted for him simply to block the far right.
Macron said his second term would not be a continuation of his first, and he committed to address all of France’s current problems.
He also addressed those who backed Le Pen directly, saying that, as president, he must find an answer to the “anger and controversies” that drove them to vote for the far right.
“It will be my responsibility and the responsibility of those around me,” Macron said.
Le Pen gave a concession speech within half an hour of the premiere, speaking to her supporters assembled in a booth in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris.
“The great winds of freedom could have blown over our country, but the ballot box decided otherwise,” Le Pen said.
However, Le Pen acknowledged the fact that the far right had not performed well in any presidential election. She described the result as a “historic” and “remarkable victory” that put her political party, the National Rally, “in an excellent position” for the June parliamentary elections.
“The game is not over yet,” she said.
Macron and Le Pen have spent the past two weeks touring the country to attract those who did not vote for them in the first round.
Macron had to convince voters to back him again despite a mixed record on domestic issues, such as his handling of the yellow vest protests and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Le Pen’s campaign attempted to capitalize on public anger over cost-of-living pressures by launching a serious campaign to help people adapt to inflation and rising energy prices – a major concern of French voters – rather than relying on the anti-Islamist, anti-immigration and Euroskeptic attitudes that dominated the first two attempts her to win the presidency in 2017 and 2012.
She presented herself as a more mainstream and less radical candidate, although much of her statement remained the same as five years ago. “Stopping uncontrolled immigration” and “eradicating Islamic ideologies” were priorities in her statement, and analysts said many of her EU policies would have put France at odds with the bloc.
Although Le Pen has dropped some of her more controversial policy proposals, such as leaving the European Union and the euro, her views on immigration and her position on Islam in France – and she wants to make it illegal to wear the headscarf in public – have not. they change.
“I think the hijab is an official dress imposed by Islamists,” she said during Wednesday’s only presidential debate. “I think the vast majority of women who wear one can’t actually do that, even if they don’t dare say so.”
But Vladimir Putin may have been her biggest political obstacle. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Le Pen was an outspoken supporter of the Russian president, even visiting him during her 2017 election campaign. Her party also took a loan from a Russian-Czech bank several years ago that it is still repaying.
Although she has since condemned the invasion of Moscow, Macron attacked Le Pen for her earlier stances during the debate. He said he could not be trusted to represent France when dealing with the Kremlin.
“You talk to your banker when you talk to Russia. You cannot properly defend France’s interests in this matter because your interests are related to people close to Russian power,” Macron said during the discussion.
Le Pen said her party was forced to seek funding abroad because no French bank had approved the loan request, but the defense apparently failed to resonate.
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