With little surprise after recent polls, neoliberal former investment banker Emmanuel Macron was projected to win the presidential election according to the first official estimate after polls closed Sunday with 65.5 percent of the vote, while far-right anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen obtained 34.5 percent.
In his first speech after polls closed, Macron pledged his loyalty to France and promised to combat terrorism while working to remedy divisions in France he attributed to political extremes, represented in part by Le Pen's far-right platform.
"I know the divisions in our nation, which led some to vote for extremist parties. I respect them," Macron, widely described as a centrist, said in a solemn address at his campaign headquarters after winning the presidency. "I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens."
Acknowledging her defeat, Le Pen addressed supporters saying, "The French have chosen a new President of the Republic and have voted for continuity." She thanked her supporters and wished Macron "success in the face of the immense challenges facing the France." She also announced major changes within the National Front, possibly hinting to a change of name in a bid to complete the rebranding or "de-demonizing" operation she started in 2011.
With a record abstention rate of over 25 percent, in addition to 9 percent of blank votes, Macron obtained a small 42 percent of the popular vote — including a large voting bloc looking to reject the far-right rather than support him.
With about 34 percent of voters refusing to cast a ballot for either of the two candidates, the National Front's Le Pen technically ranks third, with 23 percent of the vote. This still represents almost 11 million people — 5 more million than she won in the first round on April 22, meaning that an significant portion of conservative supporters of Francois Fillon preferred her over the “candidate of the establishment,” Macron.
According to the polls, less than half — 48 percent — of Fillon's supporters voted for Macron in the runoff vote, while 28 percent voted for Le Pen and 32 abstained or cast a blank vote.
As for the supporters of radical leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, they were more prone to defend democratic institutions against the rise of the far-right, with 52 percent voting for Macron, 41 abstaining and 7 voting for Le Pen. Between the two rounds, Melenchon's supporters — tempted by abstention — have faced an intense hateful shaming campaign from the part of the mainstream media and political elites for being reluctant to “block” a victory of the far-right by voting for the neoliberal banker.
Macron, painted as a candidate that breaks with the traditional parties despite the fact that he served as minister of the economy under President Francois Hollande's government, has promised to deregulate the economy and stay in the European Union, strengthening EU ties.
The final results will be issued later in the night Sunday. Political parties are already calling their supporters to mobilize in the perspective of the "third round," France's legislative elections scheduled on June 11 and June 18.