Beating National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in a decisive victory, pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron won the second round of the presidential election on Sunday, May 7, with a 61.5 percent count against Le Pen’s 34.9 percent.

Macron, 39, who has never held elected office, is the youngest president in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic after leading an improbable campaign that swept aside France’s establishment political parties.

“It is a great honor and a great responsibility,” Macron said in a video link to address thousands of flag-waving supporters who gathered on the plaza of the Louvre, where he held his victory celebration. “A new page is opening.”

 

LOWEST VOTERS TURNOUT 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. Photo by The Telegraph

 

The newly-elected president also vowed to “defend France and Europe” and “unite” a divided and fractured France that had led people to vote for “extremes.” He said that he would “fight with all my strength against the division that undermines and destroys us” and promised to “guarantee the unity of the nation” and “fight against all forms of inequality and discrimination.”

François Bayrou, an ex-minister and Macron’s centrist ally, said Macron’s election as the youngest head of state on the planet 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,” Bayrou furthered.

On the other hand, outgoing Socialist president, François Hollande, who was once Macron’s mentor and had appointed him economy minister, said: “His large victory confirms that a very great majority of our citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union and show France is open to the world.”

Meanwhile, Le Pen conceded defeat. She said she had won a “historic and massive” score which 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.

Macron, a former investment banker and senior civil servant who grew up in a bourgeois family in Amiens, served as deputy chief of staff to Hollande but was not at that time part of the Socialist party.

In 2014 Hollande appointed him economy minister but he left government in 2016, complaining that pro-business reforms were not going far enough. A year ago he formed En Marche!, promising to shake up France’s “vacuous” and discredited political class.

Macron campaigned on pledges to ease labour laws, improve education in deprived areas and extend protections for self-employed people.