French Presidential election polls have conclusively projected French President Emmanuel Macron as winning against his opponent Marine Le Pen, turnout on Sunday was 2 percentage points lower than the 2017 election, according to the Interior Ministry, with an abstention rate of 28%, the highest since 1969 said Reuters. Macron’s Centrist party, La République En Marche, looks set to gain around 58.2% in the second and final round of voting, according to a projection by polling firm Ipsos-Sopra Steria, with Marine Le Pen of the nationalist and far-right National Rally party close to 41.8%. Le Pen admitted defeat but vowed to keep up the fight during the upcoming June parliamentary elections. With his second term election win, Macron will join an exclusive club as only two French presidents before him have managed to secure a second one.
Key issues in the recent election campaigning have been set during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent Western sanctions that have raised fuel prices. Marine Le Pen, during her third bid for France’s presidency, diverted from her previous rhetoric on the European Union and euro integration and instead concentrated on the economic struggles of French voters. Important points in France being domestic affairs and soaring inflation. Le Pen’s campaign homed in on the rising cost of living as Macron’s vulnerability. Promising cuts to fuel tax, zero-percent sales tax on essential items from pasta to diapers, income exemptions for young workers and a “French first” stance on jobs and welfare. Macron meanwhile pointed to her past admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin as showing she could not be trusted on the world stage, while insisting she still harboured plans to pull France out of the European Union, which something she denies. Le Pen reportedly accepted money from Russian banks some time ago to keep her party afloat, says Washington Post. EU-centric politics have played a large part of this recent election, as Le Pen’s party “National Rally” is centered on Euroscepticism, souverainism, xenophobia, and nationalist rhetoric which is contrasted to Macron’s policies and his party’s values. Macron said Friday that Le Pen’s plans to ban Muslim women from wearing headscarves in public would trigger a “civil war.” Le Pen is considered to have “softened” her campaign in this election as she worked to distance her party from her family’s toxic political legacy and association with Holocaust denial, with her controversial father having founded the party National Rally that she continued leading.
In the latter part of the campaign as he sought the backing of left-leaning voters, Macron played down an earlier promise he had made regarding making the French work longer, saying he was open to discussion on plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, as France holds this age as one of the youngest industrialized nations. Even Le Pen, who had previously advocated for a retirement age of 60 years for everyone, has recently changed her mind for a “more realistic reform.” as France’s positions toward pension reform shifts.
Several European leaders and politicians, who will have feared a Le Pen win that would have upended the continent’s post-war order, swiftly congratulated Macron for his reelection.