John Leicester

PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday, relieving allies that the nuclear power will not change dramatically in the midst of war in Ukraine from European Union and NATO efforts to punish and deter Russian military expansionism.

The second five-year term for the 44-year-old centrist saved France and Europe from seismic shocks due to the fact that the helm was led by populist Marine Le Pen, a contender for President Macron’s second round, who quickly conceded defeat but still had the best result in history. elections. .

Recognizing that “many” voters cast ballots for him simply to prevent the fierce nationalist far-right Le Pen, Macron vowed to reunite a country that is “full of so much doubt, so many divisions” and work to calm the anger of French voters who fed the company of Le Pen.

“No one will be left on the side of the road,” Macron said in a triumphant speech amid the Eiffel Tower and a projection of the blue-white-red tricolor flag of France. He was encouraged by several hundred supporters who joyfully waved the flags of France and the EU.

“We have a lot to do, and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times when France has to express its voice,” Macron said.

During her campaign, Le Pen promised to dilute France’s relations with the 27 EU countries, NATO and Germany, steps that would shake Europe’s security architecture when the continent is dealing with the worst conflict since World War II. Le Pen also spoke out against EU sanctions on Russian energy supplies and faced close attention during the campaign because of her former friendliness with the Kremlin.

A chorus of European leaders hails Macron’s victory as France plays a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and supplies weapons to Ukraine.

“Democracy wins, Europe wins,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

“Together we will make France and Europe forward,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Macron’s victory “great news for the whole of Europe” and an incentive for the EU to “be a protagonist in the greatest challenges of our time since the war in Ukraine.”

Macron won with 58.5% of the vote against 41.5% in Le Pen – much closer than when they first met in 2017.

Macron became the first French president in 20 years to win an election after incumbent President Jacques Chirac beat his father, Le Pen, in 2002.

Le Pen called her result a “brilliant victory”, saying that “in this defeat I can not help but hope.”

Breaking the threshold of 40% of the vote is unprecedented for the French far right. In 2017, Macron beat Le Pen from 66% to 34%, and her father won less than 20% against Chirac.

She and hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melanchon, one of 10 candidates who were eliminated in the first round on April 10, quickly advanced Sunday night before France’s June legislature, urging voters to give them a parliamentary majority to stab Macron.

This time, Le Pen’s assessment rewarded her many years of efforts to make her far-right policy more voter-friendly. Leading fierce agitation over the cost of living, she has made her way among voters in disgruntled rural communities and in former industrial centers.

Jean-Marie Cornick, a 78-year-old Le Pen voter, said he voted for her because he wanted a president who gave priority to “our daily lives – salaries, taxes, pensions.”

The decline in Macron’s support compared to what it was five years ago points to a fierce battle that awaits the president to rally people behind him for a second term. Many French voters found the 2022 presidential rematch less convincing than in 2017, when Macron was an unknown factor.

Left-wing voters – unable to identify with either the centrist president or Le Pen – suffered from Sunday’s election. Some were reluctant to go to the polls solely to stop Le Pen, casting unhappy votes for Macron.

“It was the least choice,” said Stephanie David, a transport logistics worker who backed the Communist candidate in the first round.

It was an impossible choice for retired Jean-Pierre Roux. Also voting for the Communist in the first round, he threw an empty envelope into the ballot box on Sunday, pushing back both Le Pen’s policies and what he considered Macron’s impudence.

“I’m not against his ideas, but I can’t stand this man,” Roo said.

In contrast, Marianne Arbre, voting in Paris, voted for Macron, “to avoid a government that will end up with fascists, racists.”

“There is a real risk,” the 29-year-old said.

Macron went to the polls as a solid favorite, but faced a fragmented, worried and tired electorate. The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected Macron’s first term, as have months of violent protests against his economic policies.

Celebrating the victory, Macron acknowledged his duty to the voters who helped him overcome the trait, “not to support the ideas I follow, but to block the ideas of the far right.”

“I want to thank them and tell them that I realize that their voice binds me for years to come,” he said. “I am the custodian of their sense of duty, their commitment to the Republic.”

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Associated Press reporters Sylvie Corbe, Elaine Henley, Angela Charlton and Thomas Adamson in Paris, Sam Petreken in Brussels Michel Spingler in Henin-Beaumont and Alex Turnbull in Le Touquet.

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Follow the coverage of the French AP election at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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