The World BrieflyApril 25, 2022
A Collective Exhale
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Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron decisively defeated his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential runoff, a vote closely watched around the globe due to its impact on the country’s future, the European Union and NATO, ABC News reported.
Macron secured 59 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 41 percent, said Reuters, making Macron the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades. Meanwhile, about 28 percent of voters stayed home, the highest percentage in more than 50 years.
The runoff followed the first round earlier this month which resulted in Macron with 28 percent of the vote and Le Pen with 23 percent.
Macron previously faced Le Pen in the 2017 presidential runoff and defeated her by a margin of 30 percentage points. Analysts told the Washington Post that the level of enthusiasm for centrist Macron, however, has decreased since he first ran for the presidency five years ago. The election gave the far-right its highest support in a French presidential election.
A longtime critic of the bloc and an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Le Pen, a Eurosceptic, has recently softened her image to attract more voters and focused her campaign on capturing public frustration with Macron’s economic and social policies.
She has criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and voiced support for sanctions but opposed restrictions on Russian energy imports due to concerns over inflation. She also wanted to reduce France’s commitment to NATO.
Macron, on the other hand, did not campaign during the first round, instead focusing on the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. He has been under fire for his pro-business policies including tax cuts for the wealthy and raising the retirement age. These in particular have alienated some of his left-leaning voters.
Political observers noted that a far-right win would have shaken up France, the EU, NATO and the bloc’s relationship with Russia while giving a boost to other far-right parties in Europe.
Even so, Macron is likely to face a tough second term – marked by street protests and an uncooperative parliament – that could further polarize the country and embolden the fringe parties.
Macron, understanding the waning enthusiasm for his leadership – analysts say many voted for him to prevent a far-right presidency – addressed that discontent Sunday night: He told supporters that addressing those concerns will be a priority.
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