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Macron wins French presidency by emphatic margin - projections

Updated: 2017-05-08 02:49

Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday 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, early projections showed.

The centrist's emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge reliefto 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.

Five projections, issued within minutes of polling stations closing at 8 pm (1800 GMT), showed Macron beating Le Pen byaround 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 apariah in French politics, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.

Le Pen's high-spending, anti-globalisation 'France-first'policies may have unnerved financial markets but they appealedto many poorer members of society against a background of highunemployment, social tensions and security concerns.

Macron's immediate challenge will be to secure a majority innext month's parliamentary election for En Marche! (Onwards!),his political movement that is barely a year old, in order toimplement his programme.

The 39-year-old former investment banker, who served for twoyears as economy minister but has never previously held electedoffice, will become France's youngest leader since Napoleon with a promise to transcend outdated left-right divisions.

At least one opinion poll published in the run-up to thesecond round has indicated that the majority he needs could bewithin reach.

Despite having served briefly as economy minister inPresident Francois Hollande's deeply unpopular Socialistgovernment, Macron managed to portray himself as the man torecast a political landscape moulded by the left-right divisionsof the last century.

While Macron sees France's way forward in boosting thecompetitiveness of an open economy, Le Pen wanted to shieldFrench workers by closing borders, quitting the EU's commoncurrency the euro, radically loosening the bloc and scrappingtrade deals.

Socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuze said France hadchosen to retain its place at the heart of Europe.

Shortly after the first projections were published, Le Pen,48, said she had congratulated Macron. But she defiantly claimedthe mantle of France's main opposition in calling on "allpatriots to join us" in constituting a "new political force".

Her deputy said this new force would not be called "NationalFront".

When he moves into the Elysee Palace after his inaugurationnext weekend, Macron will become the eighth - and youngest -president of France's Fifth Republic.

He plans to blend a big reduction in public spending and arelaxation of labour laws with greater investment in training.

A European integrationist and pro-NATO, he is orthodox inforeign and defence policy and shows no sign of wishing tochange France's traditional alliances or re-shape its militaryand peace-keeping roles in the Middle East and Africa.

His election also represents a long-awaited generationalchange in French politics that have been dominated by the samefaces for years.

He will be the youngest leader in the current Group of Seven(G7) major nations and has elicited comparisons with youthfulleaders past and present, from Canadian Prime Minister JustinTrudeau to British ex-premier Tony Blair and even President JohnF. Kennedy in the United States.


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