French President Emmanuel Macron wins re-election and defeats Marine Le Pen

WASHINGTON – French President Emmanuel Macron crossed for another term on Sunday, hitting back a stronger-than-expected challenge from a far-right populist who has attacked the EU and NATO and expressed support for Russia.

“I am no longer the one – sided candidate, but instead the president of all,” Macron told jubilant supporters gathered near the Eiffel Tower to celebrate his re-election and the defeat of challenger Marine Le Pen.

In a rematch of the 2017 presidential election, Macron led Le Pen with more than 58% of the vote, according to the expected results from the French news media working with national pollsters.

Le Pen admitted shortly after the announced projection. She noted that she improved her performance from five years ago and will now concentrate on parliamentary elections for her party.

“The game is not quite over,” she told supporters.

Five years ago, Macron defeated Le Pen by more than 66% of the vote.

Macron, 44, who built his own political party to run in the 2017 presidential election, won again despite an initial period marked by protests against his economic policies, the COVID-19 pandemic and most recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine that disrupted diplomatic relations worldwide.

In his victory speech, Macron acknowledged that French voters had expressed “anger” and he must now “react effectively.”

Macron’s re-election also meant a setback for the populist movements that have shifted politics across the Western world, from Brexit to Viktor Orban’s successes in Hungary and Donald Trump in the United States.

“When putting together your project brick by brick, it’s a project that’s about getting out of the EU, even if it does not explicitly say so,” Macron told Le Pen in their latest debate.

US and EU officials eased

U.S. and European officials welcomed the news of Macron’s re-election. Some analysts in the United States pointed out that Macron won despite approval ratings of less than 40% – about the same as President Joe Biden, who is considering his own re-election in 2024.

“An interesting observation, just for info,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted. “President Macron seems to have secured a double-digit victory over LePen at a time when his approval rating is 36%. Hmmm ….”

Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, pointed out that another prominent European populist – Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa – also lost on Sunday, according to polls.

These defeats could be “a gigantic victory for the renewal of democratic values ​​in Europe and a major setback for populist nationalism,” McFaul said. “Maybe the global tide is turning?”

Others pointed out that Le Pen did better in this French election than it did five years ago, and the conservative populist movement still needs to be taken seriously in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Le Pen himself told supporters that “more than ever I will continue my work for the French.”

RACE OF THE RACE: Emmanuel Macron vs. Marine Le Pen: France votes in tense presidential campaign

FIRST ROUND:Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen is fighting for the French presidency

Far right Le Pen came out strong after the first round

Le Pen had come within 5 percentage points of Macron in the first round of voting two weeks ago, creating fears of an ultranationalist turn in French politics. Le Pen has long advocated for an anti-immigrant agenda, and in this campaign she called for banning Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public.

In a Friday interview on BFM television in France, Macron presented the choice as a choice “between leaving or not leaving Europe” and “giving up or not giving up the secular republic.”

Le Pen, reiterating the arguments of anti-globalists across the continent, said France had surrendered its sovereignty to multilateral organizations such as the EU and NATO.

In the run-up to Sunday’s election, French voters expressed concern about issues that have also plagued politics in the United States and elsewhere: inflation, a sluggish economy, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Macron and La Pen ended up as the top two candidates from a packed field after the first round of voting two weeks ago. In a closer than expected margin, Macron finished with 27.85% of the vote and Le Pen with 23.15%.

The narrow margin led to more political activity by Macron, who had focused on his government job and did very little campaigning before the first round.

Opinion polls in recent days have shown Macron widening his lead, but the French president has warned supporters not to take anything for granted.

Macron and Russia’s war in Ukraine

Macron has played a key role in organizing the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, promoting military assistance to the Ukrainians and economic sanctions against President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Le Pen has been sympathetic to Putin and Russia, and a victory from her would have been a major propaganda victory for Putin’s government.

Macron played on Le Pen’s ties to Russia during the campaign, telling her in a debate: “When you talk to Russia, you talk to your banker.” He also said her anti-Muslim policies would trigger a “civil war” in France.

After her loss in the 2017 presidential election, Le Pen tried to soften her image. She reversed her long-standing opposition to the euro, the currency of the European Union, and changed the national party from “National Front” to “National Rally”.

PENEN’S AGENDA:Marine Le Pen’s right-wing extremist vision: Retooling France at home, abroad

MACRON ATTACK:French President Emmanuel Macron punched him in the face while on a trip to a small village

This time, Le Pen focused more on the economic anxiety that many French voters expressed. One of her goals: Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65.

The challenger said she would “give the French their money back.”

A Le Pen victory would have meant drastic changes for the French and their relationship with the EU and NATO, organizations with close ties to the United States. France is the EU’s second largest economy and has nuclear weapons.

Now Macron is getting another period for its more global agenda.

Historian Simon Schama tweeted that it “looks like the endless repeated self-feeding newspaper predictions that this would be a nail-biter because France hated Macron so much, and Le Pen now so reassuringly all became massively erroneous.”

The results of the French election are a victory for the EU, NATO and their American allies, but also a warning that the populism of those like Le Pen is not dead.

Le Pen got a louder voice in total than five years ago, noted Benjamin Haddad, senior director of the European Center at the Atlantic Council. The estimated turnout on Sunday was less than 75%, low by French standards.

“There is dissatisfaction,” Haddad said. “There is anger. There is anger at the expense of the cost of living.”

Macron assembled his candidacy with a strong debate that showed last week, he said, and seems ready to continue to pursue a “reformist liberal agenda.

“There are things he will have to address,” Haddad said. “He’s aware of that.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Emmanuel Macron wins re-election as French President over Marine Le Pen

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