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7 May 2017

Emmanuel Macron set to be President of France

The centrist from nowhere has seen off his far-right challenger, Marine Le Pen. 

By Julia Rampen

Emmanuel Macron, the unconventional centrist, is set to win the French presidency after a race which pitted an internationalist, liberal outlook against the nativist populism and economic nationalism of the Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

Although polls only closed at 8pm French time, projections taken at this point are generally accurate to within a few percentage points. According to the Ipsos/Sopra Steria vote estimate, Macron has beaten his rival by 65.1 per cent to 35.9 per cent.  

His victory will be a relief for political moderates, who feared a takeover from the far right. But the failure of both candidates from the mainstream left and right to make the final round has highlighted how disenchanged French voters are with the status quo.

Macron, 39, will be France’s youngest ever President. Although he served in the economy ministry under Francois Hollande, he has never previously been elected into office and ran on his own movement, En Marche! He has combined a pro-business outlook with progressive values, and a commitment to the EU, and has often been compared to Tony Blair.

His next challenge, as a President without a conventional party, will be to build a party-for-government after the French parliamentary elections in June.

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The French presidential election has been watched closely around the world, not just because it was the first time the Front National seemed guaranteed to make the second round (when Le Pen’s father, the former leader, did so, it took the establishment by surprise), but because of the voting shocks of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US Presidential election. 

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The campaign was overshadowed by the hacking of Macron’s campaign on the eve of voting. During the US elections, the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked in an attempt to sabotage her campaign. 

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has released a statement saying she “warmly congratulates” Macron on his electoral success.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “I would like to congratulate Emmanuel Macron on his election as France’s new President. This is not just a victory for France, but a victory for Britain and the liberal values we hold dear.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, tweeted: “Vive La France. Congratulations to new President, Emmanuel Macron on his decisive victory over the hard right.”

However, as Pauline Bock warns, the Front National, once seen as an extremist fringe, is likely to dominate the opposition to Macron. Le Pen has already told her supporters she is focusing on the parliamentary elections in June.