Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election in a landslide on Sunday, becoming the youngest president in France’s history.
Macron, a 39-year-old pro-business centrist, defeated Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who called for France to exit the European Union, by a margin of 65.1 % to 34.9%, according to the French Interior Ministry.
His victory served as a relief to European allies who had feared another populist result after Britain’s vote to exit the European Union and Donald Trump’s ascension to US president last year.
“I know the divisions in our nation, which led some to vote for extremist parties. I respect them,” Macron said in a victory speech at his campaign headquarters. “I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”
Early reports showed that slightly more than 25% of voters absented, the highest rate in a French presidential election since 1969, according to The Guardian. A record 12% of voters cast a blank or “spoiled” ballot.
Macron’s expected margin of victory was bigger than the gap shown by pre-election polls, which had projected a Macron victory by around 20 points.
Here was the scene outside the Louvre when Macron’s victory was announced:
A former investment banker, Macron served for two years under President François Hollande as Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Data, but had never held elected office. He only truly entered the public discourse when he rebelled against Hollande’s socialist party and ran as an independent presidential candidate for his En Marche! (Onwards!) movement.
Macron has expressed pro-businesses and pro-EU views. He built a reputation with his “Macron Law,” a controversial reform bill that allowed, among other things, longer retail hours on Sunday.
The 48-year-old Le Pen said she called Macron to congratulate him and concede the election. Shortly after polls closed, Le Pen spoke to supporters, pledging a “profound reform” of her party, the National Front, in an effort to create “a new political force.”
“Our patriotic and republican alliance will be the primary force of opposition to the programme of the new president,” Le Pen said on Sunday.
National Front vice president Florian Philippot said that the party will rename and rebrand the party as part of the change pledged by Le Pen, according to Politico.
Le Pen is famed for her hardline anti-immigration views and opposition to the European Union. She has taken steps to soften the inflammatory image of the National Front her father founded, and she gained significant support among younger voters who found her antiestablishment and pro-French-worker stances appealing.
Macron will be inaugurated on May 14, when Hollande is expected to step down.
Despite Le Pen’s loss, the election marked a record result for National Front. Le Pen’s 35% was almost twice that of her father, Jean-Marie, who lost to Jacques Chirac in a presidential run-off in 2002.
Macron must now work to win a majority for his En Marche! party in next month’s parliamentary elections. The movement is just about one year old and will have to field hundreds of candidates in the elections.
Le Pen told supporters to look ahead to the parliamentary elections and pledged to be the main voice of opposition to Macron’s movement.
Hollande released a statement via Twitter, saying that he had called Macron to congratulate him and “expressed all my best wishes for the success of our country.”
France’s prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve released a statement congratulating Macron on his win, saying that voters rejected the “fatal project of the extreme right” and upheld the values of France.
Congratulations from other leaders also poured in quickly. Theresa May, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, was quick to offer her congratulations in a statement released Sunday.
“The Prime Minister warmly congratulates President-elect Macron on his election success. France is one of our closest allies and we look forward to working with the new President on a wide range of shared priorities,” the statement reads.
US President Donald Trump offered his congratulations to Macron on Twitter:
Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next President of France. I look very much forward to working with him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2017
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, also tweeted his congratulations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Macron through a tweet from her spokesman Steffen Seibert in French.
“Your victory is a victory for a strong and united Europe and for the Franco-German friendship,” Seibert wrote.
Jake Kanter contributed reporting to this story.
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