French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election, greets supporters after voting in the second round of the 2022 French presidential election, at a polling station in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France, April 24, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool
PARIS, April 24 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron defeated his far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday by a comfortable margin, early projections by pollsters showed, securing a second term and heading off what would have been a political earthquake.
Against a backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions that have exacerbated a surge in fuel prices, Le Pen’s campaign homed in on the rising cost of living as Macron’s weak point.
She promised sharp cuts to fuel tax, zero-percent sales tax on essential items from pasta to diapers, income exemptions for young workers and a “French first” stance on jobs and welfare.
Macron meanwhile pointed to her past admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin as showing she could not be trusted on the world stage, while insisting she still harboured plans to pull France out of the European Union – something she denies. read more
In the latter part of the campaign as he sought the backing of left-leaning voters, Macron played down an earlier promise to make the French work longer, saying he was open to discussion on plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65.
In the end, as viewer surveys after last week’s fractious televised debate between the two testified, Le Pen’s policies – which included a proposal to ban people from wearing Muslim headscarves in public – remained too extreme for many French.
Ex-merchant banker Macron’s decision to run for the presidency in 2017 and set up his own grass roots movement from scratch up-ended the old certainties about French politics – something that may come back to bite him in June’s parliamentary elections.
Instead of capping the rise of radical forces as he said it would, Macron’s non-partisan centrism has sped the electoral collapse of the mainstream left and right, whose two candidates could between them only muster 6.5% of the first-round vote on April 10.
One notable winner has been the hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, who scored 22% in the first round and has already staked a claim to become Macron’s prime minister in an awkward “cohabitation” if his group does well in the June vote.
Additional reporting by Michel Rose, Leigh Thomas and Gus Trompiz; Writing by Mark John, Richard Lough and Ingrid Melander; Frances Kerry, Raissa Kasolowsky, Alexandra Hudson
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