French President, Emmanuel Macron, has been re-elected for a second term as he defeated his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, on Sunday by a comfortable margin.
Reuters reports that cheers of joy erupted as the results appeared on a giant screen at the Champ de Mars park at the foot of the Eiffel tower, where Macron supporters waved French and EU flags. People hugged each other and chanted “Macron”.
In contrast, a gathering of dejected Le Pen supporters erupted in boos and whistles at a sprawling reception hall on the outskirts of Paris.
Le Pen admitted defeat but vowed to keep up the fight, with the June parliamentary elections in mind. “I will never abandon the French,” she said to supporters chanting “Marine! Marine!”
The first pollsters’ projections showed Macron securing around 57-58 per cent of the vote. Such estimates are normally accurate but may be fine-tuned as official results come in from around the country throughout the evening.
Macron can expect little to no grace period after many, especially on the left, only voted for him reluctantly to block the far-right from winning.
Protests that marred part of his first mandate could erupt again quite quickly, as he tries to press on with pro-business reforms.
“We will not spoil the victory … but (Le Pen’s) National Rally has its highest score ever,” Health Minister Olivier 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,” he added, pledging change.
Macron will join a small club – only two French presidents before him have managed to secure a second term. But his margin of victory looks to be tighter than when he first beat Le Pen in 2017, underlining how many French remain unimpressed with him and his domestic record.
Against a backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions that have exacerbated a surge in fuel prices, Le Pen’s campaign homed in on the rising cost of living as Macron’s weak point.
She promised sharp cuts to fuel tax, zero-per cent sales tax on essential items from pasta to diapers, income exemptions for young workers and a “French first” stance on jobs and welfare.
Macron meanwhile pointed to her past admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin as showing she could not be trusted on the world stage while insisting she still harboured plans to pull France out of the European Union – something she denies.
In the end, as viewer surveys after last week’s fractious televised debate between the two testified, Le Pen’s policies – which included a proposal to ban people from wearing Muslim headscarves in public – remained too extreme for many French.