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Thursday, December 1, 2022

France’s Macron beats Le Pen to win second term, exit polls show

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F

rench President Emmanuel Macron was re-elected for a second term tonight as he beat off his far-Right rival Marine Le Pen.

Mr Macron, the 44-year-old centrist, won with a 58. per cent share of the vote – beating the far-Right Ms Le Pen, 53, on 41.8 per cent, according to exit polls.

They are always extremely accurate in France, meaning major broadcasters and other media outlets called the Macron victory as soon as polls closed at 8pm local time on Sunday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulated his French counterpart, tweeting: “Congratulations on your re-election as President of France. France is one of our closest and most important allies. I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world.”

Marine Le Pen concedes defeat

/ AFP via Getty Images

Conceding defeat, Ms Le Pen told supporters at her campaign HQ in Paris: “We could have seen a great wind of freedom sweeping across this country, but the French people have said otherwise.

“When we see the results of tonight’s election, we can nevertheless say we have been victorious. Millions have voted for us, and I want to thank all of them.”

Saying her National Rally party would remain a counterbalance to Mr Macron, Ms Le Pen said: “Those who voted for me overwhelmingly in this second round – I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will continue to defend the citizens of France, now like never before.”

As Macron prepared to celebrate with a rally by the Eiffel Tower, supporters in Paris could be heard chanting “Five more years!”

Supporters react after the victory of French President Macron

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mr Macon was set to celebrate on the historic Champ de Mars underneath the blue-and-yellow flag of the European Union, as well as the French Tricolour.

Preparing to take pride-of-place alongside him was his wife, 69-year-old retired teacher Brigitte Macron.

By 7pm on Sunday, the turnout of those eligible to vote in the Macron-Le Pen second round was just 72 per cent – the lowest since 1969.

This was the year Charles de Gaulle resigned as head of state, and only 69% turned up to vote Georges Pompidou into power.

This year’s abstention figure was 2.6 per cent higher than in 2017 – when Mr Macron first beat Ms Le Pen to seal his first term.

A Macron supporter reacts after the victory

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mr Macron is a passionate supporter of the EU, and now hopes to go on to become de-facto leader of the bloc, following the retirement of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He will also be bracing himself for more rows with the British over a range of issues including the migrant boat crisis, and English Channel fishing rights.

Despite constantly leading the opinion polls, Macron had warned of a possible defeat comparable to Donald Trump winning the American presidency.

Macron – who once compared Britain’s democratic vote to leave the EU as ‘a crime’ – had also suggested that a low turnout might have seen him robbed of power.

Just before his re-election, Mr Macron said: “We must get used to far-Right ideas”.

He conceded that Ms Le Pen’s party – that National Rally – had increased its share of the vote since 2017, when he beat Ms Le Pen by a landslide 66 per cent.

But he also said Ms Le Pen was unfit to replace him because her party was still paying money back to Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

“War is raging on the continent,” he said during a TV debate last Wednesday, before snarling at Ms Le Pen: “You are in fact in Russia’s grip.”

Mr Macron also warned that Ms Le Pen risked sparking a “civil war” with her plans to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public, and Jewish men from wearing the kippah.

In turn, Ms Le Pen described the former merchant banker and financial civil servant as a ‘President of the Rich’ who was ‘contemptuous and very arrogant’.

Mr Macron used his own initials to create En Marche ! (On the Move!) his own political movement as recently as 2016, and is independent of any established party.

Ms Le Pen’s changed the name of her family party, the National Front, to National Rally in 2018, so as to try and soften its extremist image.

It was founded in 1972 by her father, the convicted racist and Holocaust denier, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Mr Le Pen, who is now 93, was runner-up in the French presidential election on 2002, and carried on contesting elections afterwards until 2012.

This suggests that his daughter will also keep pushing to enter the Elysee Palace, and has no thoughts of retirement.

Mr Macron will now serve as France’s head of state until 2027 – a period of time which will include the Paris Olympics of 2024.

Presidents are only allowed two terms, meaning Mr Macron – by far the youngest head of state in modern French history – is likely to retire from politics before his 50th birthday.

His immediate predecessors as President – the Socialist Francois Hollande and the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy – were both forced out of office after a single term.

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