Emmanuel Macron elected as France's new President in clear victory over Marine Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron has been elected as France's new president after a clear victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

National Front leader Le Pen has conceded defeat and called Macron to congratulate him on his victory.

Independent centrist Mr Macron took 66% of votes, the Interior Ministry said after counting "virtually all votes".

Mr Macron, aged 39, is now set to become France's youngest leader since Napoleon but faces the challenge of building a parliamentary majority and healing deep splits in the country after a divisive election.

In a televised speech to the nation from his HQ the president-elect promised to protect and defend France and said he acknowledged the divisions that drove people to "vote to the extreme".

He said his victory represented hope and said a "new page of our history" had opened and said he would do everything to ensure the French "no longer have a reason to vote for extremists".

The race between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen has taken place against a backdrop of voters rejecting the traditional mainstream parties and the rise of the far right.

Although she has accepted defeat, Ms Le Pen is thought to have taken the National Front to a record performance.

In a statement, she said the National Front must undergo a "deep transformation" in order to become a vibrant political force and indicated that she will remain at the forefront of the party.

Clashes overnight between masked protesters against Mr Macron and police in eastern Paris saw 141 people arrested, with nine remaining in custody on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, former investment banker Mr Macron must now move to build support in Parliament at next month's election for his own movement En Marche! which is only just over a year old.

He will take France's top job without having previously been elected to public office.

Emmanuel Macron waves to supporters after casting his vote. Credit: AP

Theresa May was among European leaders to congratulate Mr Macron on his victory.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister warmly congratulates President-elect Macron on his election success.

"France is one of our closest allies and we look forward to working with the new President on a wide range of shared priorities."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman congratulated pro-EU Macron on his win, saying it was "a victory for a strong united Europe and for the Franco-German friendship".

The US president Donald Trump also congratulated Mr Macron in a tweet.

Australia's prime minister congratulated French president-elect Emmanuel Macron on what he described as an "historic election win."

French president-elect Emmanuel Macron's inauguration will be held by the end of the coming week at the Elysee palace, but the exact date hasn't yet been set.

The ceremony must be scheduled before the formal end of the term of Socialist President Francois Hollande on May 14.