Paris – french president Emmanuel Macron seemed headed for re-election on Sunday after beating the far-right candidate Marine LePenaccording to projections.
If the projections are confirmed by the official results, Macron will be the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years; the last one was Jacques Chirac in 2002.
Le Pen then conceded her defeat and President Macron’s victory. However, he emphasized that the unprecedented percentage he obtained in the elections “is in itself a dazzling victory.”
“The ideas we represent are reaching great heights,” he said.
If re-elected, Macron will have to govern a deeply divided nation and struggle to maintain a parliamentary majority in June elections.
Five years ago, Macron won a landslide victory and became, at 39, the youngest president in the history of France.
On this occasion, the difference will most likely be much smaller. Opinionway, Ifop and Harris pollsters projected that Macron will win with between 57% and 58.5% of the vote against between 41.5% and 43% for Le Pen.
This second round has implications for the future of Europe. During the campaign Macron was favored but faced a tough challenge from Le Pen.
Macron asked voters to trust him for a second five-year term after a term that included protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The result of the elections in France, a nuclear power with one of the largest economies in the world, It could also affect the conflict in Ukraine, as France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and support for sanctions against Russia.
Support for Le Pen had grown during the campaign to the highest level the candidate has ever achieved, and turnout will prove decisive on Sunday. Many of those planning to vote for Macron would likely do so to curb Le Pen and ideas seen as too extreme and undemocratic, such as her plan to ban the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public or her ties to Russia.
Le Pen voted in Henin-Beaumont, in the former industrial heartland of France. There he cheerfully greeted poll workers in the northern city. He emerged from the radiant voting booth and deposited his ballot in a transparent box. Outside, he took photos with his followers.
Then came Macron, who shook dozens of hands, and carried a child, on his way from the family home in the English Channel resort town of Le Touquet to his polling station.
Inside, the president greeted more people, posed for photos with his wife Brigitte and cast his vote with a wink for the cameras. The voting booths were protected by curtains of the red, white and blue of the French flag.
The two candidates try to attract the 7.7 million votes that the leftist candidate obtained Jean-Luc Melenchon, defeated in the first round. Turnout at noon was 26.1%, slightly higher than in the first round on April 10.
For many who voted for left-wing candidates in the first round on April 10, this second vote poses an ugly choice between nationalist Le Pen and a president some believe has shifted to the right in his first term. The outcome could depend on which leftist voters choose between supporting Macron or abstaining and letting him fend for himself against Le Pen.
All opinion polls in recent days pointed to a victory for the 44-year-old European president, although the difference with respect to his nationalist rival, 53 years old, varied a lot, between 6 and 15 percentage points, depending on the survey. They also advanced a possible record of people who would vote blank or would stay at home.
Macron went on the offensive this week in a two-hour, 45-minute debate, the last of the campaign, in which he cornered his far-right rival in an effort to get the votes he needs to win.
Le Pen has tried to appeal to the working class, affected by the rise in prices stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine, a strategy that even Macron acknowledges has had an effect. The far-right said lowering the cost of living would be her priority if she was elected as France’s first female president and she stood as the candidate for voters who can’t make ends meet.
Le Pen says Macron’s presidency has divided the country and often alludes to the gilets jaunes protest movement, which rocked the Macron government before the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 with violent protests against economic measures that in the opinion of some harmed the poorest.
The French presidential campaign has been especially hard on voters with an immigrant background and religious minorities. Polls indicate that much of France’s Muslim population, the largest in Western Europe, voted in the first round for leftist candidates, so their voice could be decisive.
Macron has also defended his climate and environmental achievements in a bid to appeal to young voters who tend to vote left. Millennials in particular voted in droves for Melenchon. Many young voters are especially interested in climate issues.
Although Macron associated himself with the slogan “Make the planet great again” in his first five-year term, he capitulated to outraged yellow vest protesters by scrapping a fuel tax hike. Macron has said his next prime minister would be in charge of environmental planning as part of efforts to make France carbon neutral by 2050.
Le Pen, once seen as a climate change skeptic, wants to scrap renewable energy subsidies. She has promised to decommission wind farms and invest in hydroelectric and nuclear power.
About 48.8 million voters were eligible to participate in the second round.