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Saturday, December 10, 2022

France’s Macron re-elected but far-right rival extended play

PARIS ( Associated Press) – French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday, according to estimates by polling agencies. Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the result assured the European Union of leadership stability in the bloc’s only nuclear-armed power and was immediately welcomed by France’s allies.

A second five-year term for centrist Macron left France and its allies with the seismic turmoil of a wartime transition to power Macron’s populist challenger Marine Le Pen, who quickly admitted his defeat on Sunday night, but then also appeared certainly to be one of the best for his radical nationalist far-right policies.

During his campaign, Le Pen pledged to reduce French ties with the 27-nation EU, NATO and Germany, moves that would shake Europe’s security architecture as the continent was at its worst since World War II. Deals with conflict. Le Pen also spoke out against EU sanctions on Russian energy supplies and faced scrutiny during the campaign over his past friendship with the Kremlin.

A group of European leaders hailed Macron’s victory. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, “Democracy wins, Europe wins.”

“Together we will move France and Europe forward,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi described Macron’s victory as “great news for the whole of Europe” and for the EU as “being a hero in the greatest challenges of our time, a boost for the war in Ukraine to begin”. welcomed.

Voting agencies’ estimates released after the last polling station closed said Macron was set to defeat his rival by a double-digit margin. Several hundred Macon supporters happily gathered in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, waving French and European Union flags to the beat of Daft Punk’s “One More Time”.

Five years earlier, Macron won a sweeping victory over Le Pen to become France’s youngest ever president at 39. This time the difference is expected to be much smaller: polling agencies OpinionWay, Harris and Ifop estimated that the 44-year-old pro-European centrist would win at least 57% of the vote.

Le Pen was projected to win between 41.5% and 43% of support – a still unprecedented result for the 53-year-old in his third attempt to win the French presidency.

The initial official results of the French presidential runoff are expected after Sunday night. If the guesses are correct, Macron becomes only the third president to win the ballot box twice since the founding of modern France in 1958, and for the first time in 20 years, Jacques Chirac overtook Le Pen’s father in 2002 Was.

Le Pen called their results “a dazzling victory”, adding that “in this defeat, I can’t help but feel a form of hope.”

Breaking the 40% vote threshold is unprecedented for the French far-right. Le Pen was defeated by Macron 66% to 34% in 2017 and his father got less than 20% against Chirac.

He and hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, one of 10 candidates who finished in the first round of voting on April 10, both moved quickly to France’s legislative election in June, prompting Macron to dissuade Macron from voters. He urged them to give parliamentary majority.

This time Le Pen’s score rewarded his years-long efforts to make his far-right politics more attractive to voters. Campaigning hard on issues of livelihood, he made deep inroads among blue-collar voters in disaffected rural communities and former industrial centres.

The projected drop in support for Macron compared to five years ago points to an uphill battle for the president in his second term to rally people behind him. Many French voters found the 2022 presidential rematch less compelling than in 2017, when Macron was an unknown factor, having never held an elected office before.

Left-wing voters – unable to identify with either the centrist president or Le Pen’s hardline nationalist platform – were often tormented by the options available on Sunday. Some people reluctantly rushed to the polling stations to stop Le Pen and happily voted for Macron.

“It was at least the worst option,” said Stephanie David, a transportation logistics worker who supported a Communist candidate in the first round.

It was an impossible choice for the retired Jean-Pierre Roux. After voting for a Communist in the first round, he dropped an empty envelope in the ballot box on Sunday, rejecting both Le Pen’s politics and what Macron saw as arrogance.

“I’m not against his views, but I can’t stand that person,” Roux said.

In contrast, Marion Arbre, who was voting in Paris, cast her vote for Macron “to avoid a government that finds itself with fascists, racists.”

“There’s a real risk there,” the 29-year-old frets.

Macron voted with a massive lead in the turnout, but he faced a fragmented, anxious and exhausted electorate. The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic battered Macron’s first term, as did months of violent protests against his economic policies, which created fertile ground for Le Pen.

With the EU’s only seat on the UN Security Council and the only nuclear arsenal, the result in France was being seen in a 27-nation bloc. France has taken a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and is supplying weapons systems to Ukraine.

Appealing to working-class voters struggling with rising prices, Le Pen vowed that lowering the cost of living would be his priority and argued that Macron’s presidency had left the country deeply divided.

Macron sought to appeal to voters of immigrant heritage and religious minorities, especially because of Le Pen’s proposed policies targeting Muslims and putting French citizens first for jobs and benefits.

Macron also touted his environmental and climate achievements in the first round to young voters who supported leftist candidates. Macron said his next prime minister would be put in charge of environmental planning as France seeks to become carbon neutral by 2050.

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Associated Press journalists Thomas Adamson, Sylvie Corbett and Alain Ganley in Paris, Michele Spingler in Henin-Beaumont and Alex Turnbull at Le Touquet contributed.

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Follow Associated Press’s coverage of the French election https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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