French President Emmanuel Macron has won re-election after his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen conceded her loss Sunday.
Macron, who faced challenges including the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, will now serve a second five-year term as president — the first to win re-election in 20 years.
His supporters waved French flags at the Champ de Mars park with views of the Eiffel Tower after his election win.
“A great wind of freedom could have blown over our country, the fate of the ballot box wanted otherwise,” Le Pen said in her brief concession speech.
Le Pen said that she feels “hope” even in her defeat and said European leaders “cannot ignore” the “great mistrust” that the French people feel towards them.
“I will not abandon the French. Vive la France,” she said.
Exit polls from the second round of the French presidential election, which are generally reliable, indicate that Macron is expected to take 58.2% of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.8%, according to CNN.
Macron, a centrist, had been furiously campaigning against Le Pen since the first round of the election cycle in France began earlier this month.
Under French law, voters hit the polls for two election rounds if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in the first round.
Macron, though favored to win, had dropped in popularity ahead due to the country’s recent challenges as Le Pen campaigned on a platform focusing on inflation and the rising cost of living.
This election cycle had been plagued by low voter turnout with just 26.4% of the 48.7 million eligible voters having hit the polls by midday, according to the Interior Ministry.
Supporters of the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had come in a close third behind Le Pen in the first round, had also promised to cast blank ballots in protest, The Guardian reported.
Mélenchon has not endorsed Macron but has said that voters should not cast ballots for the far-right, Al Jazeera reporter Bernard Smith noted.
“Madame Le Pen has been beaten. France has clearly refused to entrust its future to her, and this is very good news for the unity of our people,” Mélenchon said after Le Pen’s concession.
“However, Emmanuel Macron has become the most poorly elected president of the Fifth Republic. His victory is floating in an ocean of abstentions and spoiled ballots.”
Valérie Pécresse, the candidate of the center-right Les Républicains party, congratulated Macron even after she was defeated in the first round and hinted that her party would support him.
“His victory should not hide the fractures of our country, leading Marine Le Pen to an unprecedented score,” she said, adding that the center-right would help stop division in the country heading into parliamentary elections.
Macron hosted his election night victory event near the foot of the Eiffel Tower while Le Pen held her concession event at a Belle Epoque-style venue that was a former hunting lodge.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated Macron on his win in a message posted to Twitter.
“France is one of our closest and most important allies,” Johnson said. “I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, said she looked forward to the “excellent cooperation” between France and Europe.
“Together, we will move France and Europe forward,” she said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz added that French voters had “sent a strong commitment to Europe today.”
“I am pleased that we will continue our good cooperation!” Scholz said.
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