French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron cruised to victory in the second and final round of national elections on Sunday, defeating the controversial National Front Party candidate Marine Le Pen.
With 93 percent of the vote counted, the independent centrist Macron claimed 65 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 35 percent in a contest with dramatic implications for France’s role in Africa and across the globe.
Macron, running under the banner of the new En Marche party he formed last year, won the overall vote in nearly every department including those in the National Front strongholds of the northeast.
Macron emphasized national unity in a victory speech delivered at the pyramid outside the Louvre, acknowledging the frustration of Le Pen voters and promising a place for them in his vision for France. In a short concession speech, Le Pen thanked the millions of people who voted for her, and vowed to continue the fight with a vigorous political opposition.
Macron is a former investment banker and economic minister under outgoing President François Hollande, whose decision not to run for re-election prompted a historic contest that saw the traditionally dominant Republican and Socialist parties defeated.
Macron campaigned on a centrist platform that, in comparison with Le Pen, promotes social and economic reforms in France, and extends its participation in NATO, the United Nations – and above all the EU. Macron, keenly aware of the future challenges to France’s foreign policy in Africa, traveled to Algeria earlier this year.
He has called migration to Europe unstoppable, affirms the value of multiculturalism and specifically Muslims in French society, and sparked controversy with remarks about France’s colonial history that described them as crimes against humanity. At the same time, he remains committed to France’s security and counterterrorism role in Francophone nations, and during a presidential debate earlier this month promised to hire 10,000 police officers to protect France’s own territory and borders.
Image: Emmanuel Macron