Meet Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old former investment banker who will be the next French president

Emmanuel Macron celebrates his presidential election victory at Le Louvre on May 7, 2017 in Paris, France. Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron will be the next French president after winning the election in a landslide.

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.

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.

Now, he will become the youngest president in France’s history. Here’s what you need to know.

The beginning

Emmanuel Macron was born on December 21, 1977, in Amiens, a city in northern France. He is the eldest child of Jean-Michel Macron and Françoise Macron-Nogues and only family member not to have pursued a career in medicine.

His dad was a neurologist at the University Hospital of Amiens, while his mother was a paediatrician. His younger brother and sister also kept to the family tradition to become a cardiologist and nephrologist, respectively.

Macron, on the other hand, has had a fairly non-linear career path. In high school, Macron studied sciences, before going on to take philosophy at Nanterre university. The apprentice philosopher then left Nanterre to head to the Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po), before studying at the “École nationale d’administration (ENA),” two of the most prestigious French schools.

After studying, he became a financial investment banker at Rotschild & Cie., which he left in 2012, before becoming deputy secretary-general at the Elysée. He then served in François Hollande’s cabinet as economy minister.

An unconventional romance

Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

In 2007, Macron married his former high-school French teacher Brigitte Trogneux, who is 24 years his senior. They met at the private, catholic school La Providence in Amiens. At the time, he was 15 years old.

Brigitte Trogneux was, according to the IB Times, charmed by young Macron’s intelligence and once stated: “Emmanuel’s skills are totally above average. You can say I say this because we’re married, but this is the teacher speaking.”

During a speech at their wedding, Macron thanked family and friends for “accepting” and “supporting” the couple throughout the years.

The start of a political career

Macron was asked by Hollande to replace Arnaud Montebourg as Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Data in 2014.

Macron’s predecessor was considered a protectionist, and his most famous campaign was probably “Made in France,” where he pushed individuals to buy French products over foreign goods.

Macron on the other hand, is pro-businesses, pro-EU, and even urged American scientists, academics, and entrepreneurs, who feel uneasy about President Donald Trump’s administration, to move to France.

Montebourg was essentially sacked because he was outspoken about government cuts. A threat the Hollande government averted by ousting Montebourg from his position.

Reforming France’s economy

Macron was tasked with reforming France’s economy after zero growth for the past three years.

One of Macron’s biggest accomplishments as a minister under Hollande is his eponymous pro-business “Loi Macron.” He wrote it to steer the socialist government towards more business-friendly policies and wrote it with Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

This was the first law he tried to pass as economy minister and it was extremely unpopular with the French population as well as Parliament. Many believed that it went against the socialist values of France.

The law was actually so unpopular with both the National Assembly and Senate that it had to be passed by invoking article 49, which made it a question of confidence in Parliament.

The law was a solution to shake up an economy drowning in rules and regulations as well as boost growth. Interestingly, there was no mention of the 35-hour-week working limit, which Macron is extremely vocal about as he says it constrains business.

Difficult relationship with Hollande

It’s no secret that Macron and Hollande have a difficult relationship. The French saying “I love you, me either” comes in mind, when attempting to describe it. Macron was Hollande’s mentee. They met in 2006 through a friend, and reports state that they got along well.

In March 2015, Macron was asked in a radio interview with Europe 1 whether he wanted François Hollande to be president again. Macron stated that he was loyal to Hollande and the president of France was the “legitimate” candidate.

A year later, he launched his movement “En Marche!” which roughly translates as “forward.” Francois Hollande said of his protégé: ‘he needs to be in the team, under my authority.’

“En Marche!”

Photo: Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

Although Macron served in a socialist government, he is standing for presidency as an independent, socially liberal, and pro-business centrist candidate. This is seen by many as a rebellion.

On April 6, 2016, the political novice, who had never stood for any kind of election, announced in his hometown of Amiens the launch of his party. He resigned from government four months later.

An unknown candidate

At the beginning of November 2016, he announced his candidacy for the highest office in the country. At the time, Macron was unknown to most French people.

Starting a movement from scratch, as an unknown candidate, without any experience of how to campaign for a municipal election let alone for the presidency, is a fairly unconventional move in French politics.

He has, however, managed to make a success out of it. Macron’s website claims that there are 200,000 members of “En Marche!” although he recently stated in an interview with Quotidien his movement had 220,000 members. Those numbers are difficult to verify, however.

A change of image for France

Macron paints himself as a maverick and anti-establishment, which could serve him well. Like Trump, Macron has been successful in part because he is seen as not being part of the political elite.

He positions himself at the centre of the political spectrum, trying to woo moderates from both the left, and the right. This proved advantageous in a year where all other candidates were the extreme versions of their own parties.

Benoît Hamon, for example, is a radical in the social party who advocated for a 32-hour work week. Even François Fillon, the presidential candidate in the Republican party eventually brought down by a string of scandals, seduced Front National voters as he is a proud Catholic and champions old-fashioned family values.

The other presidential candidates

French far-right party National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Photo: Sylvain Lefevre/ Getty Images.

And then there is Front National’s Le Pen, a divisive figure linked to anti-immigrant policies and whose father was convicted of racism several times. Despite her success in the first round, Le Pen was unable to mobilise a majority of the French behind her in the second round.

Controversies on the road to victory

Macron’s road to victory was not easy. On March 14, 2017, a probe was launched into a CES event in Las Vegas where Macron was the main speaker.

Organised while Macron was in charge of the Minister of Economy, it is alleged that public relations giant Havas was awarded a major contract to organise the event without competition.

The candidate’s aide stated that “the story isn’t about Macron,” however.

Ties to Hillary Clinton

His reported close ties to US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton are not popular in certain corners of the French press, while there are also allegations he used public funds to finance his own presidential campaign.

Earlier in February, a top aide of Macron’s also accused Russia of hacking attempts and spreading fake information about him in Kremlin-backed news outlets. He claimed that this was due to Macron’s pro-EU stance.

Macron’s emails leaked online

Then, on Friday, May 5, less than two days before the second round of voting, Macron’s campaign was the target of a massive computer hack.

Around nine gigabytes of data, including contracts, emails, and accounting documents, were shared by an anonymous user online and began spreading on social media.

Macron’s campaign was able to issue a statement just minutes before a midnight blackout went into effect, preventing officials from commenting on the hack.

A landslide win

Despite the last-minute leak, Macron defeated Le Pen by a margin of 65.1 % to 34.9%, according to the French Interior Ministry.

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.

His victory will serve 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.

Can an independent, anti-establishment candidate lead France?

Macron is untested in the world of politics, but his lack of experience and vow to return “morals” to politics likely drew in voters.

“A new page in our long history this evening. I would like it to be one of hope and of confidence rediscovered,” the Macron campaign said in a statement following his victory against Le Pen.

Macron will be inaugurated on May 14, when Hollande is expected to step down.

He 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.

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