Political newcomer Emmanuel Macron has comfortably won the French election, defeating far-right, anti-EU rival Marine Le Pen.
The centrist, who will become the youngest leader of France, took 65% of the votes compared to Le Pen’s 35% in Sunday’s run-off.
It was a record performance for the National Front, which wants to take France out of the European Union and close the country’s borders.
Recognising the deep divisions in France, Macron said he must do “all I can to during the next five years so that no-one ever has a reason again to vote for extremists”.
In a rousing speech outside the Louvre in central Paris, where he was joined by his wife Brigitte Macron, he urged supporters to help him build a parliamentary majority, in order to carry out his reforms.
“Our task is huge,” he warned.
He earlier made a more solemn speech at his campaign headquarters, telling the public: “I know the divisions in our nation, which led some to vote from extremist parties. I respect them.
“I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”
When he moves into the Elysee Palace after his inauguration next weekend, Macron will become the eighth – and youngest – president of France’s Fifth Republic.
The 39-year-old former investment banker, who served for two years as economy minister under Hollande has never previously held elected office.
His emphatic victory, which has smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.
Macron’s immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for En Marche! (Onwards!), his political movement that is barely a year old, in order to implement his policies.
Far-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, defeated in the first round of the election, said Macron is planning “a war on the French social system” and called on his voters to mobilise against the ex-banker in parliamentary elections in June.
Conceding defeat, Le Pen told her supporters: “The National Front… must deeply renew itself in order to rise to the historic opportunity and meet the French people’s expectations.
“I will propose to start this deep transformation of our movement in order to make a new political force.”
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated, Macron, a keen defender of the EU.
He said: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended, of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency in the debate about the history of Europe.”
US president Donald Trump, who previously suggested Le Pen would benefit in the polls from a recent suspected terrorist attack in Paris, tweeted that “I look very much forward to working with (Macron)”.
© 2000 - 2022 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)