Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron convincingly defeated his second-time challenger Marine Le Pen in the second round of presidential elections on Sunday, dispelling fears in Bruxelles that the EU might face a nationalist, eurosceptic president in its second largest economy.
Even though the polls predicted a much tighter race, Macron ultimately won 58.5% of the vote, with far right National Rally (RN) leader Le Pen winning 41.5% of valid votes. With an incredibly low turnout for French elections, concerns rose on Sunday that voter abstention might work in Le Pen’s favour, though they were ultimately dispelled by the results. The 71.99% turnout was the lowest second-round turnout since 1969, which was held after Charles de Gaulle resigned as president.
European Council President Charles Michel was among the first European leaders to congratulate Macron on his reelection, together with Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo and Luxembourgian Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. Other 25 EU heads of state and government soon followed.
“Bravo, Emmanuel,” tweeted Michel in support. “In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, both perceived together with Macron as part of a powerful trio of pro-EU leaders in the bloc’s three largest economies, also expressed their happiness over the election results in France.
Draghi said Macron’s reelection was “wonderful news for all of Europe”, while Scholz offered continued Franco-German cooperation, considered to be the engine of European integration.
Le Pen’s victory would likely have sparked a fresh crisis in Europe, with her policies opposing European integration and calling for dismantling of some core EU values and mechanisms. While campaigning on the cost of living issues, Le Pen also pledged to ban burqas in public, and called for rapprochement between NATO and Russia as soon as the war in Ukraine is over.