Relief in Brussels as centrist Emmanuel Macron fights the far right to win a second term
The news that Emmanuel Macron has gained another five years as French President was greeted with relief in Brussels and other European Union capitals.
With polling stations shut down across France, a sample project predicted Mr Macron would win 58 percent of the vote, compared with 42 percent for his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.
Several European leaders were quick to congratulate President Macron.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Together we will advance France and Europe.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he hoped Mr Macron’s re-election would continue EU-NATO cooperation at a time of war in Europe.
“We hope to be able to continue our comprehensive and constructive cooperation in the EU and NATO,” said Mr. Rutte.
Mr Macron is strongly pro-EU and supports policies such as post-Covid economic development. As with his original election in 2017, he used Beethoven’s EU anthem Ode to Joy, as background music as he made his way to address the cheering supporters under the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
But Ms. Le Pen had pledged major changes to cornerstones of EU policy, signaling an imminent collision course with the European Union. In a forceful address to her supporters, she vowed to continue to slam French and EU leaders, pointing to her 12 million votes as her party’s best result ever.
Allies in the Western NATO military alliance questioned Ms Le Pen’s involvement at a time of war in Ukraine. During the election campaign, she was criticized for her longstanding admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Yesterday’s second-round vote was a runoff between the two after an earlier vote two weeks ago dropped the 10 other contenders – many of whom performed very poorly.
In that first round, Mr. Macron led with 28 percent versus Ms. Le Pen with 23 percent.
The campaign has shifted into gear over the past two weeks, with Ms Le Pen accused of being “pro-Putin” despite Ukraine’s invasion. Mr Macron has been accused of being “arrogant, distant and a president for the rich”.
But while turnout, estimated at 72 per cent, was high by Irish and international standards, observers said it could be the lowest since 1969. There was also much speculation about the amount of spoiled or blank ballots – a protest against the restriction of voting to centre-right Macron and far-right Le Pen.
This is the third time since 2002 that left-leaning French voters have been forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Supporters of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the France Unbowed party won 7.7 million votes, or 22 percent, in the first round, missing Marine Le Pen by just 400,000 votes in the run-off.
Mr Mélenchon urged his supporters not to vote for Le Pen yesterday and many were expected to abstain. Last night he expressed his delight at her defeat and said it was the eighth time that either she or her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, had lost a presidential election.
Mr Macron cannot expect a reprieve after many, particularly on the left, reluctantly voted for him to prevent the far right from winning.
Protests that marred part of his first term could erupt again fairly quickly as he tries to press ahead with pro-business reforms.
“There will be continuity in government policy because the President has been re-elected. But we also heard the message from the French people,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said.
But his first big challenge will be the June 12-19 parliamentary elections. Opposition parties on the left and right are launching an election campaign this week to deprive Mr Macron of the parliamentary majority he needs to rule effectively.
Across the EU, the victory of the centrist, pro-European Union Macron is seen as reversing trends such as the UK leaving the EU, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders.
In his victory speech, he pledged to be “one president for all” and acknowledged those who voted not for him – but against Ms Le Pen – for “launching a barrage against the far right. He also cited voter abstention rates and vowed to listen more.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/relief-in-brussels-as-centrist-emmanuel-macron-fights-off-far-right-to-win-second-term-41583905.html Relief in Brussels as centrist Emmanuel Macron fights the far right to win a second term