Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.
The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.
Pollsters’ projections gave Macron a winning margin of around 65 percent to 35 – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.
Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah in French politics, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.
“I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said in an earnest address at his campaign headquarters, shown live on television.
“I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them,” he said. “I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”
His immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for En Marche! (Onwards!), a political movement that is barely a year old, in order to implement his programme.
President Francois Hollande, who first brought Macron into national politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union”.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, told Macron: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency”.
Macron told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call on Sunday after the result that he would travel to Berlin soon for talks.
Trump also tweeted his congratulations on Macron’s “big win”, saying he looked forward to working with him.
Macron’s team successfully managed to skirt several attempts to derail his campaign – by hacking its communications and distributing purportedly leaked documents – that were reminiscent of the hacking of Democratic Party communications during Hillary Clinton’s U.S. election campaign.
Allegations by Macron’s camp that it had been targeted in a massive computer hack that compromised emails added last-minute drama on Friday night, just as official campaigning was ending.