Emmanuel Macron has been elected as the new President of France in Sunday’s run-off elections. The 39-year-old investment banker will be one of the youngest leaders in the nation’s history.
The election has far-reaching implications, as Macron handily won over his nationalist opponent Marie Le Pen. Macron is described as a centrist to Le Pen’s far-right “France first” sensibilities. Le Pen had proposed leaving the European union. Macron’s election may signal the French are not ready for such measures, but Le Pen’s party far outperformed all original expectations, perhaps marking the beginning of growing nationalistic sentiment in the face of continued financial and domestic security concerns.
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 U.S. president.
Five projections, issued within minutes of polling stations closing at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), showed Macron beating Le Pen by around 65 percent to 35 – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had pointed to.
Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies until recently made it a pariah in French politics, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.
Le Pen’s high-spending, anti-globalization ‘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.