Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France’s next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world’s biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave.
The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 per cent to 35 per cent on Sunday.
If confirmed, Le Pen’s showing would nonetheless be stronger than her National Front party has seen in its 45-year history.
The projections are based on vote counts in selected constituencies, then extrapolated nationwide. Macron would be the youngest French president ever.
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron told AFP that his victory in Sunday’s election represented “hope” and a “new chapter” for France.
“A new chapter in our long history begins tonight. I want it to be one of hope and renewed confidence,” Macron said.
Emmanuel Macron: a 39-year-old political prodigy
In his unorthodox private life and short political career, France’s new president Emmanuel Macron has battled conventions and broken with traditions.
The 39-year-old son of two doctors from the northeastern city of Amiens — set to be the youngest president in French history — breaks the mould of a traditional French leader, apart from his elite education in some of the country’s best universities.
Firstly, he is married to his former teacher, glamorous 64-year-old Brigitte Trogneux, a divorced mother of three children whom he fell in love with as a schoolboy. Their relationship has been a subject of fascination, often encouraged by the media-savvy Macron, in French glossy magazines.
He has also charted one of the most unlikely paths to the presidency in modern history, from virtual unknown three years ago to the leader with no established political party behind him.
The philosophy, literature and classical music lover launched his independent movement En Marche (“On The Move”) only 12 months ago, which he said was “neither of the left nor the right”.
This unusual positioning for France, which has seen him borrow economic policies from the right coupled with social measures from the left, was initially met with cynicism.
“There is a left and a right… and that’s a good thing, that’s how our democracy functions,” former prime minister Manuel Valls said after En Marche launched.
“It would be absurd to want to remove those differences.”
Others saw the ambitious former investment banker, who was then economy minister in Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government, as too young and too inexperienced to have serious presidential ambitions. Few apart from his loyal core of advisors believed that he had the ability to triumph in 2017 at the age of 39, a year younger than Napoleon Bonaparte when he took power in 1804.(AFP-AP)