Paris – French voters re-elected President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday evening, granting him a second term with a substantial victory over his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen. CBS News correspondent Elaine Cobbe reports that many expected the weekend’s election results to be very close, but even with his clear victory, Macron likely won’t sit still for long.
The significance of the French national election goes far beyond the country’s borders, and Cobbe says there were sighs of relief across much of France and far beyond as Macron’s victory nixed the chances of an extremist president – hostile to the European Union and NATO, and with allegedly close ties to Russia – taking office, at least for five years.
President Macron’s supporters partied late into the evening under the Eiffel Tower, celebrating his decisive victory with more than 58% of the vote against 41% for Le Pen.
“We stood up against nationalism, we tried to show that today we have to be more united than ever,” said one reveler.
But with over 40% of the electorate, it was the closest the far right has come to taking the top seat in a French election, so Macron’s celebration will be short-lived. The election showed just how deeply divided France is at the moment – a reality the president acknowledged in his victory speech.
“We have to be respectful,” he said. “Our country is filled with so many divisions, so we have to be strong, but no one will be left behind.”
It will be difficult to unite the French behind him. The results indicate that extremist voters far outnumbered those from the center or traditional left and right parties.
After the announcement of the results, demonstrations took place in several cities against the two candidates. Fireworks were thrown at the police and tear gas was used to clear the crowd.
A banner described Macron as “Robin Hood of the RICHES”.
Le Pen echoed that sentiment in his own speech, accepting defeat but urging his supporters to keep fighting “this hoarding of power by the few”, and vowing to continue his “commitment to France”.
In an increasingly fractured France, Le Pen vowed to keep fighting.
Congratulations for Macron poured in from around the world, including from President Biden, who said he looked forward “to our continued close cooperation – especially in supportingdefend democracy and fight climate change.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy were among many other leaders to send their best wishes to Macron. They are relieved that France continues to play an important role in international diplomacy, but Macron’s real fight will now be at home.