French election: Emmanuel Macron wins presidency by decisive margin

Centrist independent on course for victory by 65% to 35% margin but Le Pens defeat still marks historically high vote for Frances far right

The pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidency in a decisive victory over the far-right Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, and vowed to unite a divided and fractured France.

Macron, 39, a former economy minister who ran as a neither left nor right independent promising to shake up the French political system, took 65.1% to Le Pens 34.9%, according to initial projections from early counts.

His victory was hailed by his supporters as holding back a tide of populism after the Brexit vote and Donald Trumps 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 didnt know France!

Macron delivers a speech outside the Louvre on Sunday night. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Despite the wide margin of the final result, Le Pens 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 Nationals 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 Frances 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.

Franois Bayrou, an ex-minister and Macrons centrist ally, said: He is the youngest head of state on the planet [which] sends an incredible message of hope. Macron is giving hope to people who had no hope. Hope that maybe we can do something, go beyond the [left-right] divide that no longer makes sense.

Le Pen swiftly conceded defeat. She said she had won a historic and massive score that made her leader of the biggest opposition force in France and vowed to radically overhaul her Front National party. Her promise to transform the far-right movement left open the possibility that the party could be expanded and renamed in an attempt to boost its electoral chances. It was a major step in the political normalisation of her movement.

Marine Le Pen calls for profound transformation of Front National

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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