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France En Marche! - Macron wins the Presidency

Image Credit: Jeso Carneiro (Flickr: Creative Commons)

Standing in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum, French president-elect Emmanuel Macron triumphantly addressed his supporters.

"I will unify this country. I address all of you, the French people. We have a duty to our country, as the heirs of a great history,” he said.

"I will do my best to make sure that in five years there is no need to vote for extremists."

Macron is predicted to have won the presidency by 65.8 percent to 34.2 percent. Although the abstention and spoiled vote rate sat at the highest in recent memory, Macron's mandate has been significantly buoyed by a bigger win than most polls predicted.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen was clearly disappointed with the result, vowing a “profound transformation” of her party.

But winning the election against a deeply divisive far-right figure might be the easiest part for the centrist victor. He will preside over a deeply divided electorate, inherit the 10 percent unemployment rate which sounded François Hollande’s death knell and face an uphill battle to win a majority in the important legislative elections next month.

Benefitting from the ‘Republican Front’ - the centre left and right parties who united behind the En Marche! candidate to block a Le Pen presidency - it was always Macron’s election to lose. While this ultimately helped hand him the presidency, it’s also likely that the 34 percent of the French population who voted for Le Pen will feel marginalised by the unity ticket, which blocked their candidate’s entry to the Elysée. Although this also happened in 2002, then National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen lost the second round 82-18. This time around many more voters will feel disenfranchised by the Republican Front.

When François Hollande won the presidency in 2012, he did so with a margin of just 2.8%. Macron’s is significantly higher, but so too are the stakes. His political party En Marche! is just over a year old, and is currently on the hunt for 577 candidates to field in the legislative elections. A cohabitation, where the president and prime minister come from different parties, would greatly complicate Macron’s ability to follow through with many of his campaign promises.

All of this aside, Emmanuel Macron, a former banker who has never held elected office, has managed to win the presidency of France just over a year after he broke away from the Socialist Party to start his own political movement. That he did so with a socially progressive, globalist, pro-European Union agenda makes the task he undertook all the more difficult.

The EU will take strength from Macron’s victory, but so too will populist movements around Europe who can claim their own victory in the National Front’s strongest electoral result in its history.

For France’s youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte, winning the election is just the beginning.

Joe Bourke is a student of Journalism and International Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is currently in Lyon, France as part of his studies.

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