French election: From wannabe to president, how Emmanuel Macron beat Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, french election

After a tense and often antagonistic election campaign, Emmanuel Macron is to become the next president of France. The result is, of course, in all sorts of ways extraordinary. In a little over a year, the 39-year-old former finance minister has gone from being a wannabe to the future tenant of the Elysée Palace. He struck out alone to form his own political movement and while much of the froth surrounding the election has focused on his opponent, the enormity of his achievement needs to be acknowledged and cannot be underestimated. The Conversation

Even before the first round, all the polls had Macron pegged to win the second round 60/40. But then, between the rounds, Le Pen seemed to be nibbling away at Macron’s lead – not by much, but by enough to cause some butterflies among her opponents. Macron appeared lacklustre at a crucial time. Fears of a low turnout and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s refusal to formally endorse Macron also threw a number of unknowns into the mix.

A high abstention rate would play in Le Pen’s favour, went the reasoning. Her electors, as far as anyone could tell, were more committed. In the end, turnout was indeed lower than expected (and there were 4m spoilt ballots), but it did not hinder Macron. Quite the reverse. With an estimated 65.1% of the vote to Le Pen’s 34.9%, Macron has come away with the second highest second round score in the history of the Fifth Republic.

So, now France has a president whose priorities are to tackle chronic unemployment by relaxing labour legislation and introducing a raft of measures to help young people into work, to reduce primary school class sizes to 12 pupils per teacher, to relaunch the European project in collaboration with France’s partners and to simplify the mind-bogglingly complex tax and pension set-up for French citizens.

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