The pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidency with a decisive victory over the far-right Marine Le Pen that his supporters hailed as holding back the tide of populism.
Macron, 39, a former economy minister who ran as a “neither left nor right” independent promising to shake up the French political system, took 65.1% to Le Pen’s 34.9%, according to initial projections from early counts.
“A new chapter in our long history has opened this evening,” Macron said in a statement. “I would like it to be one of hope and of confidence rediscovered.”
But Le Pen’s score nonetheless marked a historic high for the French far right. Despite a lacklustre campaign that ended with a calamitous performance in the final TV debate, she was projected to have taken 11 million votes, double that of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, when he reached the presidential run-off in 2002.
The anti-immigration, anti-EU Front National’s supporters asserted that the party has a central place as an opposition force in France.
Macron, who has never held elected office and was unknown until three years ago, is France’s youngest president.
He will next Sunday take over a country under a state of emergency, still facing a major terrorism threat and struggling with a stagnant economy after decades of mass unemployment.
France is also divided after an election campaign in which anti-establishment anger saw the traditional left and right ruling parties ejected from the race in the first round for the first time since the period after the second world war.