The pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron has promised to unite a divided France after winning a second term as French president in a decisive victory against the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who nonetheless won more than 13 million votes in a historic high for her anti-immigration party.
Macron became the first French leader to win re-election for 20 years, scoring 58.54% to Le Pen’s 41.46%.
Addressing a victory rally at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where his supporters waved French and European flags, Macron vowed to respond “efficiently” to the “anger and disagreement” of voters who chose the far right.
“I know that a number of French people have voted for me today, not to support my ideas but to stop the ideas of the far right,” he said and called on supporters to be “kind and respectful” to others, because the country was riven by “so much doubt, so much division”.
He added: “I’m not the candidate of one camp any more, but the president of all of us.”
Macron beat Le Pen with a lower margin than the 66% he won against her in 2017. Turnout was also lower than five years ago, with abstention estimated at a record 28%.
Le Pen succeeded in delivering the far right its biggest-ever score in a French presidential election, after campaigning on the cost of living crisis, and promising a ban on the Muslim headscarf in public places as well as nationalist measures to give priority to native-French people over others for jobs, housing, benefits and healthcare – policies Macron had criticised as “racist” and “divisive”. Le Pen called her score “a shining victory in itself”, adding: “The ideas we represent are reaching new heights.”
Macron’s victory was swiftly welcomed by EU leaders after a campaign the French president had described in its final days as a “battle for Europe” against the Eurosceptic Le Pen.
The European Council president Charles Michel tweeted: “Bravo Emmanuel. In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union.” The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “I am delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation.” The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said French voters had delivered “a strong message in favour of Europe”. Macron’s first foreign trip as president is expected to be to Berlin to see Scholz.
Several hundred demonstrators from ultra-left groups took to the streets in some French cities to protest against Macron’s re-election and Le Pen’s score. Police used tear gas to disperse gatherings in Paris, Lyon and the western city of Rennes.
Protests in Paris and Lyon as France’s Macron is re-elected – video
There was a large police presence in central Paris hours after the election win, after police opened fire on a car, killing two people inside, according to local reports.
The vehicle was reportedly driving against the flow of traffic on the Pont Neuf when it sped towards the officers. An investigation has been launched into “attempted voluntary manslaughter on persons in charge of public authority”, Agence France-Presse reported. It is not known if the incident was linked to the election result.
although Macron has promised his own swift new package of laws to address the cost of living crisis and tempered his time frame for raising the retirement age, he ultimately focused far less on his own manifesto in the final days and more on stopping what he called the “unthinkable”: the far-right, anti-immigration Le Pen taking the helm in France, the eurozone’s second biggest economy and a nuclear power.
Macron will use his win to bolster his push for an increased EU defence project, closer collaboration on immigration and more regulation to counter the weight of giant tech platforms such as Google. France holds the rotating European Council presidency until the end of June.
Macron had framed the choice between himself and Le Pen as “a referendum on Europe, ecology and secularism” and said the far-right leader’s demands for EU treaty change would have led to France being pushed out of the bloc. He called her a “climate sceptic” and said her plan to ban the Muslim headscarf from all public places, including the street, would breach the French constitution and religious liberties, and spark “a civil war”