Emmanuel Macron to be sworn in as French President on May 14 after emphatic win

Emmanuel Macron has won the race for the French presidency. The 39-year-old independent centrist beats far-right rival Marine Le Pen to get the keys to the Elysee Palace.VIDEO: REUTERS
Supporters listen to French president-elect Emmanuel Macron as he delivers a speech at the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017.
Supporters listen to French president-elect Emmanuel Macron as he delivers a speech at the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017.PHOTO: AFP
Emmanuel Macron celebrating at the Carrousel du Louvre after he won the second round of the French presidential elections, on May 7, 2017.
Emmanuel Macron celebrating at the Carrousel du Louvre after he won the second round of the French presidential elections, on May 7, 2017.PHOTO: EPA
 French president-elect Emmanuel Macron (centre) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (second, right) singing the national anthem in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017.
French president-elect Emmanuel Macron (centre) and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (second, right) singing the national anthem in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
French President elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux celebrate on stage at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France, on May 7, 2017.
French President elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux celebrate on stage at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France, on May 7, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attending a campaign rally in Albi, France, May 4, 2017.
Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attending a campaign rally in Albi, France, May 4, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS
Macron waves to his supporters on election day.
Macron waves to his supporters on election day.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) – Emmanuel Macron was elected French president on Sunday (May 7) with a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.

The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Macron took 66.1 per cent against 33.9 per cent for Le Pen, final results from the interior ministry showed on Monday (May 8). The gap is wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.

Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.

After winning the first round two weeks ago, Macron had been accused of behaving as if he was already president. On Sunday night, with victory finally sealed, he was much more solemn.

“I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said in an address at his campaign headquarters, shown live on television. “I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them,” he said.

“I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”

Later he strode alone almost grimly through the courtyard of the Louvre Palace in central Paris to the strains of the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, not breaking into a smile until he mounted the stage of his victory rally to the cheers of his partying supporters.

After being sworn in on Sunday (May 14), his immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for a political movement that is barely a year old, rebranded as La Republique En Marche (“Onward the Republic”), in order to implement his programme.

EUROPE DEFENDED

Outgoing president Francois Hollande, who brought Macron into politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union”.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told Macron: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency.”

Macron spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he hopes to revitalise the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU, saying he planned to visit Berlin shortly.

British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed Brexit with Macron following his victory, her Downing Street office said.

“This evening the Prime Minister spoke to President-elect Macron to warmly congratulate him on his election victory,” a spokesman said. “The leaders briefly discussed Brexit and the Prime Minister reiterated that the UK wants a strong partnership with a secure and prosperous EU once we leave,” the spokesman added.

Downing Street praised “the UK and France’s unique partnership providing a strong foundation for future co-operation”, ahead of Britain starting talks to end its membership of the EU.

Trump tweeted his congratulations on Macron’s “big win”, saying he looked forward to working with him.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was willing to help push Sino-French ties to a higher level, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also congratulated Macron.

 
The euro currency, which had been rising for two weeks as the prospect receded that France would elect an anti-EU president, topped US$1.10 in early Asian trading for the first time since the US elections, before easing back. 
 
“Fading political risk in France adds to the chance that euro zone economic growth can surprise to the upside this year,” said Holger Schmieding, an analyst at Berenberg Bank.

Macron will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. A 39-year-old former investment banker, he served for two years as economy minister under Hollande but has never previously held elected office.

Le Pen, 48, said she had also offered her congratulations. But she defiantly claimed the mantle of France’s main opposition in calling on “all patriots to join us” in constituting a “new political force”.

Her tally was almost double the score that her father Jean-Marie, the last far-right candidate to make the presidential runoff, achieved in 2002, when he was trounced by the conservative Jacques Chirac.

Her high-spending, anti-globalisation “France-first” policies may have unnerved financial markets but they appealed to many poorer members of society against a background of high unemployment, social tensions and security concerns.

 


French president-elect Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

RESHAPING THE LANDSCAPE

Despite having served briefly in Hollande’s deeply unpopular Socialist government, Macron managed to portray himself as the man to revive France’s fortunes by recasting a political landscape moulded by the left-right divisions of the past century.

“I’ve liked his youth and his vision from the start,” said Katia Dieudonné, a 35-year-old immigrant from Haiti who brought her two children to Macron’s victory rally. “He stands for the change I’ve wanted since I arrived in France in 1985 – openness, diversity, without stigmatising anyone ... I’ve voted for the left in the past and been disappointed.”

Macron’s team successfully skirted several attempts to derail his campaign – by hacking its communications and distributing purportedly leaked documents – that were reminiscent of the hacking of Democratic Party communications during Hillary Clinton’s US election campaign.

Allegations by Macron’s camp that a massive computer hack had compromised emails added last-minute drama on Friday night, just as official campaigning was ending.

While Macron sees France’s way forward in boosting the competitiveness of an open economy, Le Pen wanted to shield French workers by closing borders, quitting the EU’s common currency, the euro, radically loosening the bloc and scrapping trade deals.

Macron will become the eighth – and youngest – president of France’s Fifth Republic when he moves into the Elysee Palace after his inauguration next weekend.

Opinion surveys taken before the second round suggested that his fledgling movement, despite being barely a year old, had a fighting chance of securing the majority he needed.

He plans to blend a big reduction in public spending and a relaxation of labour laws with greater investment in training and a gradual reform of the unwieldy pension system.

A European integrationist and pro-NATO, he is orthodox in foreign and defence policy and shows no sign of wishing to change France’s traditional alliances or reshape its military and peacekeeping roles in the Middle East and Africa.


Emmanuel Macron supporters waving French national flags as they celebrate in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris, on May 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

NEW GENERATION

His election also represents a long-awaited generational change in French politics that have been dominated by the same faces for years.

He will be the youngest leader in the current Group of Seven (G7) major nations and has elicited comparisons with youthful leaders past and present, from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British ex-premier Tony Blair and even the late US president John F. Kennedy.

But any idea of a brave new political dawn will be tempered by an abstention rate on Sunday of around 25 per cent, the highest this century, and by a record share of blank or spoiled ballots – submitted by more than 11 per cent of those who did vote.

Many of those will have been supporters of the far-left maverick Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose high-spending, anti-EU, anti-globalisation platform had many similarities with Le Pen’s.

Melenchon took 19 per cent in coming fourth in the first round of the election, and pointedly refused to endorse Macron for the runoff.

France’s biggest labour union, the CFDT, welcomed Macron’s victory but said the National Front’s score was still worryingly high.

“Now, all the anxieties expressed at the ballot by a part of the electorate must be heard,” it said in a statement. “The feeling of being disenfranchised, of injustice, and even abandonment is present among a large number of our citizens.”

The more radical leftist CGT union called for a demonstration on Monday against “liberal” economic policies.

Like Macron, Le Pen will now have to work to try to convert her presidential result into parliamentary seats, in a two-round system that has in the past encouraged voters to cast ballots tactically to keep her out.

She has worked for years to soften the xenophobic associations that clung to the National Front under her father, going so far as to expel him from the party he founded.

On Sunday night, her deputy Florian Philippot distanced the movement even further from him by saying the new, reconstituted party would not be called “National Front”.

 

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