French election 2022: Emmanuel Macron beats Marine Le Pen and vows to be president for all

The centrist becomes France's first president to be re-elected since Jacques Chirac in 2002

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French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to be a leader for all of France after beating his far-right nationalist rival Marine Le Pen but he faces an uphill task to reunite the country.

The day after Sunday night's victory, as congratulations poured in from world leaders, Mr Macron's opponents wasted no time in gearing up for the centrist president's next test at the ballot box.

His opponents urged voters to deny him a majority in the parliamentary elections on June 12 and June 19.

If Mr Macron, 44, fails to score another victory, the pro-European president will struggle to advance his pro-business agenda, including unpopular proposals to raise the retirement age.

Mr Macron's win against Marine Le Pen on Sunday by a comfortable margin averted what would have been a political earthquake.

He became the first incumbent in 20 years to win a second term since Jacques Chirac beat Ms Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie in 2002.

There were cheers as the poll results appeared on a giant screen at the Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where supporters of Mr Macron waved French and European Union flags.

People hugged each other and chanted “Macron".

He won with 58.5 per cent of the vote to Ms Le Pen’s 41.5 per cent — significantly closer than when they faced off in 2017.

Victorious French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte listen to Egyptian mezzosoprano Farrah El Dibany singing ‘La Marseillaise’ near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday. Reuters

Jordan Bardella, a close ally of Ms Le Pen, insisted the battle at the ballot box was far from finished despite the National Rally party losing in the presidential election.

"Voting isn't over, the legislative elections are the third round," he told voters. "Don't put all the power in Emmanuel Macron's hands."

The hard left's Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third – slightly behind Ms Le Pen – in the first round of the election on April 10, said Mr Macron had been elected "by default".

"Don't give up," he told supporters. "You can beat Macron [in the parliamentary election] and choose a different path."

After his victory on Sunday evening, the president said a simple “thank you” and praised those who gave him five more years to lead the country with Europe’s second-largest economy.

He thanked people who voted for him not because they embrace his ideas but because they rejected his chief rival.

The president vowed to reunite France’s divided society. “From now on, I am not the candidate of one camp, but everybody's president," he said.

“Many of our fellow citizens voted for me not because of the ideas I represent, but to block those of the extreme right."

About 16 million eligible voters abstained from casting a ballot in the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, while two million others submitted blank votes.

A gathering of Ms Le Pen's supporters erupted in boos and whistles at a reception hall on the outskirts of Paris.

Ms Le Pen, 53, admitted defeat but promised to keep up the fight, with the June parliamentary elections in mind.

“I will never abandon the French,” she told supporters, who chanted “Marine, Marine.”

French daily newspaper Le Monde called the incumbent's win “an evening of victory without a triumph", while left-leaning Liberation called it “a victory without the glory".

Conservative daily Le Figaro said after all the challenges of his first term, Mr Macron's win was “no mean feat”, but asked: “Who can possibly believe that it is rooted in popular support?”

Hundreds of people took part in protests in cities across France after the results were announced.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse crowds in the Place de La Republique in Paris, while there were demonstrations in Marseille, Lyon and Rennes.

Two people were shot dead and a third was injured when police opened fire on a vehicle in central Paris on Sunday evening after the driver tried to run officers over, local media reported.

“A car was parked in the wrong direction along the Vert-Galant square on the Pont Neuf, the police approached to control the individuals present in the vehicle by pointing automatic weapons at him," a witness told Le Figaro.

“The driver rushed off towards the police at full speed. The police fired immediately.”

Among the challenges ahead for Mr Macron will be his efforts to press on with pro-business reforms.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the government was not oblivious to the divisions in France, given the 17 million people who voted for the National Rally party.

“We will not spoil the victory … but National Rally has its highest score ever,” Mr Veran told BFM TV.

“There will be continuity in government policy because the president has been re-elected. But we have also heard the French people's message.”

World leaders congratulated Mr Macron on his victory.

“Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his re-election,” US President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter. “France is our oldest ally and a key partner in addressing global challenges. I look forward to our continued close co-operation — including on supporting Ukraine, defending democracy, and countering climate change.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson also offered his congratulations on Twitter, posting messages in English and in French.

“Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on your re-election as President of France,” Mr Johnson said. “France is one of our closest and most important allies. I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping saluted Mr Macron on his victory and expressed his desire to continue to work with the French leader.

There were messages from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Mr Rutte expressed his hope to “continue our extensive and constructive co-operation in the EU and Nato".

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, also tweeted his best wishes to Mr Macron.

“Congratulations to my friend Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as President of France and sincere wishes from the UAE to the French people for continued progress & prosperity. We look forward to enhancing our longstanding strategic partnership and exploring new areas of collaboration,” Sheikh Mohamed said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Mr Macron “a true friend of Ukraine” on Sunday and expressed appreciation for his support.

Tweeting in French, Mr Zelenskyy said: “I’m convinced that we will advance together towards new joint victories. Towards a strong and united Europe.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent good wishes to the French president, the Kremlin said on Monday, amid disagreements between the leaders over the Ukraine war.

“I sincerely wish you success in your state activities, as well as good health and well-being,” Mr Putin said in a telegram to Mr Macron, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

Mr Macron was one of the few western leaders to contact Mr Putin when Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February, spending hours on telephone calls trying to negotiate a resolution.

But while keeping its diplomatic channels to Moscow open, France under Mr Macron has joined in the sanctions against Russia that followed its military operation.

The first major challenge for Mr Macron will be the parliamentary elections in June.

Patricia Chagnon, a councillor in Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party, said the result of Sunday's vote showed there was “a new division in French society”.

“We definitely have on the one hand Mr Macron, his globalist view of the world who was voted in by urban people … and we see that Marine Le Pen has consolidated her votes in rural France and among the young generation,” Ms Chagnon said on Sky News.

Opposition parties on the left and right will start a push to try to vote in a parliament and government opposed to Mr Macron.

Philippe Lagrue, 63, technical director at a theatre in Paris, said he had voted for Mr Macron after opting for the leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round.

Mr Lagrue said he would vote for Mr Melenchon again in June. “Melenchon Prime Minister. That would be fun. Macron would be upset, but that's the point.”

Polls from Ifop, Elabe, OpinionWay and Ipsos had projected a win of between 57.6 and 58.2 per cent for Mr Macron.

French President Emmanuel Macron prepares to address his victory rally at the Champs de Mars in Paris. Reuters

His victory was immediately hailed by allies as a reprieve for mainstream politics that has been rocked in recent years by Britain's exit from the bloc, the 2016 election of Donald Trump in the US and the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders.

Mr Macron is one of only three French presidents to win a second term but his margin of victory underlines how many French citizens remain unimpressed with him and his domestic record.

Against a backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing western sanctions that have led to a surge in fuel prices, Ms Le Pen's campaign homed in on the rising cost of living as Mr Macron's weak point.

She promised sharp cuts to the fuel tax, no sales tax on essential items from pasta to nappies, income exemptions for young workers and a “French first” stance on jobs and welfare.

Mr Macron said Ms Le Pen's admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin showed she could not be trusted on the world stage and he claimed she still harboured ambitions to pull France out of the EU, which she denied.

In the latter part of the campaign, as he sought the backing of left-leaning voters, Mr Macron played down a promise to make the French work for longer, saying he was open to discussion on plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65.

In the end, as viewer surveys after last week's fractious televised debate between the two testified, Ms Le Pen's policies, which included a proposal to ban people from wearing Muslim headscarves in public, were too extreme for much of the electorate.

And former merchant banker Mr Macron's decision to run for the presidency in 2017 and set up a grass roots movement upended old certainties about French politics, something that may be repeated in June's parliamentary elections.

Updated: April 26, 2022, 3:21 AM
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