French elections: Emmanuel Macron wins presidency, vows to ‘fight the divisions’ that undermine the country


PARIS, May 8: Centrist Emmanuel Macron has vowed to “fight the divisions” in the country after recording a resounding victory over far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the French presidential runoff election. “I have heard the anger, anxiety and doubts that a large number of you expressed,” a solemn Macron said in a speech at his campaign headquarters in Paris. “I will fight with all my strength against the divisions that are undermining us,” he added.

The 39-year-old former investment banker, who became the country’s youngest-ever president, also promised to “rebuild the link between Europe and its citizens.” Soon after early projections poured in, Macron said, “A new page in our long history has turned tonight” and added that he wants the result to be that of rediscovery of hope and trust.

Further addressing a victory rally, Macron stressed on the importance of building up a parliamentary majority in order to carry out much-needed changes for France. “I will do all I can during the next five years so that no-one ever has a reason again to vote for extremes,” said Macron, referring to those who had voted for far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen. The president-elect now needs to focus on getting a majority in the lower house of parliament at elections in June.

France has been reeling under terror attacks over last two years, which killed over 230 people. Determined to eradicate the menace of terrorism, the president-elect said, “France will be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.”

With the vast bulk of votes counted, Macron has secured between 65 per cent and 66.1 per cent of the vote compared to between 33.9 per cent and 35 per cent for Le Pen. The result also followed a last-minute hacking attack on Macron, in which hundreds of thousands of emails and documents stolen from his campaign were dumped online on Friday.

Buoyed over the outcome, the euro surged to its highest level since November. The election result was also a referendum on the fate of the European Union. The high-octane divisive election campaign saw both candidates spar over the country’s role in the EU. While Le Pen advocated anti-EU and anti-globalisation programme, Macron put forward a pro-EU stance.

Despite conceding defeat, Le Pen claimed a “historic, massive result” for the far right in the presidential run-off. She said her National Front party needed to be overhauled in order to create a “new political force.”

She also called the president-elect and wished him success. “I called Mr Macron to congratulate him on his election, and because I have the country’s higher interest at heart I wished him success faced with the huge challenges France is facing,” she told supporters at a post-election FN gathering in Vincennes near Paris.

US president Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German chancellor Angela Merkel were among the prominent global leaders to wish Macron on his thumping victory.

Macron, however, will face a mounting challenge to implement his programme while trying to unite a fractured and demoralised country. He is aiming to enact his domestic agenda of cutting state spending, easing labour laws, boosting education in deprived areas and extending new protections to the self-employed.

With many analysts being sceptical about Macron’s ability to win a majority with En Marche candidates alone, he might have to form a coalition of lawmakers committed to his agenda. In addition, his economic agenda, particularly plans to weaken labour regulations to fight stubbornly high unemployment, are likely to face fierce resistance from trade unions and his leftist opponents.(AGENCIES)

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