To Europe’s relief, France’s Macron wins but far-flung gains

PARIS ( Associated Press) — French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday, bringing relief among allies that the nuclear-armed power was in the midst of a war in Ukraine amid EU and NATO efforts to punish and control The middle will not change suddenly. Russia’s military expansionism.

A second five-year term for the 44-year-old centrist spared France and Europe the seismic turmoil of being on top of the flamboyant populist Marine Le Pen, Macron’s presidential runoff challenger, who quickly gave up but still He did his best election performance.

Recognizing that “many” voters voted for him to keep out only the hardline nationalist far-right Le Pen, Macron vowed to reunite a country filled with “so many doubts, so many divisions”. and works to quell the anger of the French. Voters promoting Le Pen’s campaign.

“No one will be left by the side of the road,” Macron said in a victory speech against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower and the projection of a blue-white and red tricolor French flag. He was cheered by several hundred supporters who happily waved French and European Union flags.

“We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through sad times where France must raise its voice,” Macron said.

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 as France has taken a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and supply arms to Ukraine.

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 called Macron’s victory “great news for the whole of Europe” and the EU “a boost to being a hero in the greatest challenges of our time, starting with the war in Ukraine”.

Macron won with 58.5% of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5% – significantly closer than he faced for the first time in 2017.

Macron is the first French president to win re-election in 20 years, since the incumbent Jacques Chirac defeated Le Pen’s father in 2002.

Le Pen called their result “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 eliminated in the first round on April 10, both moved quickly to Sunday night for France’s legislative election in June, undermining Macron from voters. He urged them to give a 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.

Le Pen voter Jean-Marie Cornic, 78, said he cast his vote for him because he wanted a president who would prioritize “our daily lives – wages, taxes, pensions”.

The decline in support for Macron from five years ago points to an uphill battle ahead for the president in his second term to rally the people behind him. Many French voters found the 2022 presidential rematch less compelling than in 2017, when Macron was an unknown factor.

Left-wing voters – unable to identify with the centrist president or Le Pen – were tormented by Sunday’s choice. 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 went into the vote as a strong favorite but faced a fragmented, worried 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.

Celebrating the victory, Macron acknowledged a debt to voters who helped bring him over the line, “not for supporting my views, but for blocking the extreme right.”

“I want to thank them and let them know that I know their vote obliges me for years to come,” he said. “I am the custodian of his sense of duty, his attachment to the Republic.”

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Associated Press journalists Sylvie Corbett, Elaine Gunley, Angela Charlton and Thomas Adamson in Paris, Sam Petrequin in Brussels, Michel 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

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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