Emmanuel Macron vows unity after winning French presidential election

Centrist independent wins by 66% to 34% margin, but Marine Le Pen’s defeat still marks historically high vote for France’s far right

The pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron has vowed to unite a divided and fractured France after winning a decisive victory over the far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen in the country’s presidential election.

Macron, 39, a former economy minister who ran as a “neither left nor right” independent promising to shake up the French political system, took 66% to Le Pen’s 34%.

His victory was hailed by his supporters as holding back a tide of populism after the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US election.

Addressing thousands of supporters in the grand courtyard of the Louvre, the vast Paris palace-turned-museum, Macron said he would defend France and Europe. He said Europe and the world are “watching us” and “waiting for us to defend the spirit of the Enlightenment, threatened in so many places”.

He promised to unite a divided and fractured France, saying: “I will do everything to make sure you never have reason again to vote for extremes.”

Speaking of his meteoric rise and victory that was not forecast even a year ago, he said: “Everyone said it was impossible. But they didn’t know France!”

Despite the wide margin of the final result, Le Pen’s score nonetheless marked a historic high for the French far right. Even after a lacklustre campaign that ended with a calamitous performance in the final TV debate, she was projected to have taken almost 11m votes, double that of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, when he reached the presidential run-off in 2002. The anti-immigration, anti-EU Front National’s supporters asserted that the party had a central place as an opposition force in France.

Turnout was the lowest in more than 40 years. Almost one-third of voters chose neither Macron nor Le Pen, with 12 million abstaining and 4.2 million spoiling ballot papers.

Macron, who has never held elected office and was unknown until three years ago, is France’s youngest president. Next Sunday, he will take over a country under a state of emergency, still facing a major terrorism threat and struggling with a stagnant economy after decades of mass unemployment. France is divided after an election campaign in which anti-establishment anger saw the traditional left and right ruling parties ejected from the race in the first round for the first time since the period after the second world war.

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