Emmanuel Macron vows to find answers to 'so many divisions' after winning French election

ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports on the historic victory for Emmanuel Macron after a bruising campaign in which he beat the far right’s Marine Le Pen to the presidency

Emmanuel Macron has beaten his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the French presidential elections, vowing to "find answers" for the anger and division which saw many voters turning to Ms Le Pen.

The centrist incumbent of the La Republique en Marche party won by 58.55% to 41.45%, a greater margin than expected.

Ms Le Pen has conceded defeat in the presidential runoff, saying her performance in the election represents “a shining victory in itself”. “The ideas we represent are reaching summits,” she said.

"The French showed this evening a desire for a strong counterweight against Emmanuel Macron, for an opposition that will continue to defend and protect them."

What is the significance of the election results for France and Europe as a whole? James Mates explains

The result makes Mr Macron the first French president in a generation to win a second term, since Jacques Chirac in 2002.

Following the projections, Mr Macron arrived on the plaza where his supporters gathered, beneath the Eiffel Tower, to the sound of the “Ode to Joy,” the EU’s anthem, hand in hand with his wife Brigitte.

“I’m not the candidate of one camp anymore, but the president of all of us,” he said, as he thanked his supporters.

Marine Le Pen speaks after the early result projections of the French presidential election runoff were announced in Paris. Credit: AP

In his victory speech, the French leader acknowledged many people had only voted for him only to keep Ms Le Pen out of office. "Many in this country voted for me not because they support my ideas but to keep out those of the far-right. I want to thank them and know I owe them a debt in the years to come," he said. "No one in France will be left by the wayside.

"I know that for some of our fellow compatriots who chose today the far-right, that the anger and disagreements that made them vote for that project, must also find an answer.

"This new era will not be a continuity to five-year term that is ending, but rather the collective invention of a re-found method for five years of better serving our country , our youth."

Emmanuel Macron and French first lady Brigitte Macron celebrate with supporters in Paris. Credit: AP

Many polls had suggested Mr Macron would narrowly beat Ms Le Pen, 53, whose support in France’s electorate has grown during this campaign to her highest level ever.

Following the election projections, left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said that Ms Le Pen’s defeat was “very good news for the unity of our people".

He went on to vow to lead the fight against Mr Macron’s party in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Mr Mélenchon, who failed to reach the second round by a few hundred thousand votes, said Mr Macron’s “presidential monarchy survives by default and under the constraint of a biased choice”. In his address, he urged the incumbent's opponents to vote in June’s parliamentary elections to “choose a different path” and elect a majority of left-wing lawmakers.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon could play a crucial part in the upcoming parliamentary election. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, French far-right figure Eric Zemmour, who failed to reach the runoff in the presidential election, has called for a nationalist coalition to be created in France’s parliament. Mr Zemmour, who created his own party Reconquest in recent months, said “the national bloc must get united". He suggested such a coalition ahead of June’s parliamentary elections, with the aim to fight both Mr Macron’s party and political parties on the left. Mr Zemmour received 7% of the votes in the first round of the presidential election on April 10.

Eric Zemmour was Ms Le Pen’s far-right rival in the first round of the election. Credit: AP

Mr Macron, now 44, trounced Ms Le Pen by a landslide to become France’s youngest president in 2017.

The win for the former banker who, unlike Ms Le Pen, is a fervent proponent of European collaboration, was seen as a victory against populist, nationalist politics.

But Mr Macron's presidency became troubled by fuel protests, the pandemic, anxieties around the rising cost of living and the war in Ukraine.

What was turnout like in the 2022 election?

Turnout at 5pm Paris time stood at 63%, the Interior Ministry said. That was below the 65% at the same time in the last presidential runoff in 2017.

France's main polling institutes are saying the abstention rate would likely settle at around 28%.

The elections coinciding with school holidays in parts of the country, along with the widespread perception that Mr Macron would be the inevitable winner, both probably hampered turnout.

How have European leaders reacted to the projected victory for Mr Macron?

Several European leaders and politicians swiftly congratulated Mr Macron after his far-right rival conceded defeat in Sunday’s presidential election.

Boris Johnson was among those to congratulate the centrist incumbent on his victory, saying that he looks forward to continuing to work with him on important issues.

Irish premier Micheal Martin has sent his congratulations to Mr Macron ahead of his expected re-election as president of France.

"France and Ireland are strongly committed to the success of the European project which remains the bedrock of prosperity and well-being on our continent," he said. “With crisis on our borders, it is has never been more vital that we remain a beacon of democracy and of hope in our neighbourhood and to the world.”

Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskyy called Mr Macron “a true friend of Ukraine" and expressed appreciation for his support. Tweeting in French, Mr Zelenskyy said: “I’m convinced that we will advance together toward new joint victories. Toward a strong and united Europe!”

Adding to the congratulations, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted in French: “together we will make France and Europe advance". Also tweeting in French, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that his hope was to “continue our extensive and constructive cooperation in EU and Nato”.

"Bravo Emmanuel," European Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

"In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union."

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez hailed the victory as a win for democracy.

“Democracy wins, Europe wins," he said.

“Citizens have chosen a France committed to a free, strong and fair EU,” Sánchez, who is also leader of Spain’s Socialist Party, added, referring to the 27-strong bloc.

In Germany, politicians across the political spectrum offered support, including from the pro-business Free Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and conservative Christian Social Union.

What were the main policy platforms of the final two candidates?

Ms Le Pen campaigned on the cost of living crisis, promised to ban the Muslim headscarf in public places, and vowed to give priority to native-French people over others for jobs, housing and benefits.

The far-right leader's campaign had pledged to dilute French ties with Brussels, a move that, had she won, would have seriously altered Europe’s security architecture as the continent deals with the Ukraine war.

She also repeatedly referenced the so-called yellow vest protest movement that rocked Mr Macron's government before the Covid-19 pandemic, with months of violent demonstrations against his economic policies that some thought hurt the poorest.

Ms Le Pen promised sharp cuts to fuel tax and to implement zero-percent sales tax on items such as pasta.

Mr Macron, meanwhile, touted his environmental and climate accomplishments in a bid to draw in young voters popular with far left candidates.

He said his next prime minister would be placed in charge of environmental planning as France seeks to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In the final stretches of his campaign, Mr Macron downplayed an earlier promise to make French people work longer.

In what was seen as a bid to earn the backing of left-leaning voters, he instead said that he was 'open' to discussion on proposals to increase the retirement age from 62 to 65.

The French incumbent leader, who will be keen to press on with pro-business reforms, had promised to dedicate the next five years to restoring his country to full employment.