Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France with an emphatic victory on Sunday, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.
The centristâ€™s victory, which also smashed the dominance of Franceâ€™s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britainâ€™s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trumpâ€™s election as U.S. president, reported Reuters.
The 39-year-old former investment banker, who served for two years as economy minister but has never previously held elected office, will now become Franceâ€™s youngest leader since Napoleon with a promise to transcend outdated left-right divisions.
Three projections, issued within minutes of polling stations closing at 8 p.m., showed Macron beating Le Pen by around 65 per cent to 35 per cent â€“ a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had predicted.
Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies until recently made it a pariah in French politics, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must try to heal.
Le Penâ€™s high-spending, anti-globalisation â€˜France-firstâ€™ policies may have unnerved financial markets but they appealed to many poorer members of society against a background of high unemployment, social tensions and security concerns.
The 48-year-oldâ€™s share of the vote was set to be almost twice that won by her father Jean-Marie, the last National Front candidate to qualify for a presidential runoff, who was trounced by Jacques Chirac in 2002.
Macronâ€™s immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next monthâ€™s parliamentary election for En Marche! (Onwards!), his political movement that is barely a year old, in order to implement his programme.
However, at least one opinion poll published in the run-up to the second round has indicated that this could be within reach.
With his victory, Macron has become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republicâ€™s foundation in 1958.
He said that a â€œnew chapter of hope and confidence is openingâ€.
Macronâ€™s supporters gathered to celebrate in central Paris after the bitterly fought election concluded on Sunday amid massive security.
The Macron team said that the new president had had a â€œcordialâ€ telephone conversation with Ms. Le Pen.
In a speech she thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between â€œpatriots and globalistsâ€ and called for the emergence of a new political force.
She said she had wished Macron success in tackling the â€œhuge challengesâ€ facing him.
President FranÃ§ois Hollande congratulated Macron and said the result showed the French people wanted to unite around the â€œvalues of the republicâ€.
According to the BBC, Macronâ€™s emergence was the most remarkable success story of how a man who three years ago was utterly unknown to the French public, through sheer self-belief, energy – and connections – forged a political movement that has trounced all the established French political parties.
What Does Macron Stand for?
He is a liberal centrist, pro-business and a strong supporter of the European Union.
He left the Socialist government of President Hollande last August to form his new movement – En Marche – saying it was neither left nor right wing.
His campaign pledges included a 120,000 reduction in public-sector jobs, a cut in public spending by â‚¬60bn (Â£50bn; $65bn), and a lowering of the unemployment rate to below 7 per cent.
He vowed to ease labour laws and give new protections to the self-employed.
Macron also stood on a pro-EU platform, in stark contrast to his opponent.
In the campaign it became a joke among journalists how often his answers included the words â€œau meme tempsâ€ (at the same time). It was his way of marrying everything and its opposite, of reconciling every contradiction.
He got away with it because he is who he is.
But in the real life of running a fractious, angry, divided country – will his words have the same effect? Will his solitary self-belief create the structures of political support which he needs in the rough-and-tumble of government? Will his charm still work?
What Will be His Immediate Difficulties?
His En Marche grouping has no seats in parliament at all. Legislative elections follow on quickly from the presidential poll – on 11 and 18 June.
En Marche will contest the elections vas a party but Macron may find himself needing to pull together a coalition to govern effectively.
Although his presidential candidacy had support from other political parties, much of it stemmed from the need to defeat Ms. Le Pen.
He will need to win over the abstainers and those who are sceptical about his political vision. Left-wing voters in particular felt disenfranchised by the choice of the final two candidates.
Macron will also need to tackle the fallout from a hacking attack on Friday, the final day of campaigning, when a trove of documents relating to his campaign, said to include both genuine and fake documents, was released online.