French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday, sparking relief among allies that a nuclear-armed force would not suddenly change course in the midst of the war in Ukraine than efforts by the European Union and NATO to punish and contain. Russian military expansion.
The second five-year term for the 44-year-old saved France and Europe from the seismic turmoil of having unnerving Shiite Marine Le Pen at the helm, Macron’s presidential run-off who quickly conceded defeat but still scored her best electoral performance ever. .
Acknowledging that “many” voters cast their ballots just to keep far-right Le Pen at bay, Macron vowed to reunite the country “which is full of so many doubts and so many divisions” and work to quell the wrath of the French. The voters who fueled Le Pen’s campaign.
“No one will be left by the way,” Macron said in a victory speech in front of the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower and the dropping of the three-color French flag. He was greeted by several hundred supporters who happily waved the French and European Union flags.
“We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times when France has to make its voice heard,” Macron said.
During her campaign, Le Pen vowed to weaken France’s relations with the 27 countries of the European Union, NATO and Germany, moves that would shake up Europe’s security architecture as the continent grapples with its worst conflict since World War II. Le Pen has also spoken out against European Union sanctions on Russian energy supplies and has faced scrutiny during the campaign because of her past friendship with the Kremlin.
Macron’s victory was hailed by a chorus of European leaders, with France playing a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and supply Ukraine with arms.
“Democracy wins, Europe wins,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
“Together we will make France and Europe move forward,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described Macron’s victory as “fantastic news for all of Europe” and a boost to the European Union “as a hero in the greatest challenges of our time, beginning with the war in Ukraine”.
Macron won 58.5% of the vote against 41.5% for Le Pen – much closer than when they first faced them in 2017.
Macron is the first French president in 20 years to win re-election, since incumbent Jacques Chirac defeated Le Pen’s father in 2002.
Le Pen described its result as a “brilliant victory,” saying, “In this defeat, I can’t help but feel a kind of hope.”
Breaking the 40% vote threshold is unprecedented for the French far-right. Le Pen was beaten 66% to 34% by Macron in 2017 and her father won less than 20% against Chirac.
She and hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, one of the 10 candidates eliminated in the first round on April 10, quickly advanced Sunday night in France’s June legislative elections, urging voters to give them a parliamentary majority to block Macron.
This time Le Pen’s result rewarded her years of efforts to make her far-right policies more palatable to voters. She campaigned vigorously on cost-of-living issues, and achieved profound successes among blue-collar voters in disaffected rural communities and in former industrial centers.
Le Pen’s voter, Jean-Marie Kornik, 78, said he voted for her because he wanted a president who would prioritize “our daily lives – salaries, taxes and pensions.”
The drop in support for Macron compared to five years ago suggests a tough battle awaits the president to rally the people behind him in his second term. Many French voters find the 2022 presidential rematch less convincing than in 2017, when Macron was an unknown factor.
Left-wing voters – unable to identify with the centrist president or Le Pen – were annoyed by the choice of Sunday. Some reluctantly headed to the polls only to stop Le Pen, and cast their unfunny votes for Macron.
“The least option was worse,” said Stephanie David, the logistics worker who backed a Communist candidate in the first round.
It was an impossible choice for retired Jean-Pierre Roux. Having also voted for communism in the first round, he threw an empty envelope into the ballot box on Sunday, ignoring Le Pen’s policies and what he saw as Macron’s arrogance.
“I’m not against his ideas but I can’t stand this person,” Rowe said.
In return, Marianne Arbery cast his vote in Paris, in favor of Macron “to avoid a government that finds itself with fascists and racists.”
“There is a real danger,” the 29-year-old said.
Macron went to the vote as the front-runner, but faced a ripped, anxious, and tired electorate. The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic hit Macron’s first term, as did months of violent protests against his economic policies.
While celebrating the victory, Macron admitted that he owed it to the voters who helped him cross the line, “not to support the ideas I have, but to block the ideas of the far right.”
“I want to thank them and tell them that I know their vote obligates me for years to come,” he said. “I am a guardian for their sense of duty and attachment to the Republic.”
Associated Press journalists Sylvie Corbett, Ellen Ganley, Angela Charlton and Thomas Adamson in Paris, Sam Petriken in Brussels, Michelle Spengler in Henin Beaumont, and Alex Turnbull in Le Toquet contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the French election at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022
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