Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron will become the next president of France after a crucial election that saw the lowest projected voter turnout in 40 years.
Macron, a 39–year–old former economy minister, handily beat far–right extremist candidate Marine Le Pen by a projected vote count of 65.1% to 34.9%. While the exact tally is not yet final, French officials have declared Macron the winner.
A hacking scandal targeting Macron and announced just ahead of a campaign media blackout Friday seems not to have significantly affected the vote. Instead, French voters sent a resounding message repudiating 48-year-old Le Pen and her anti-immigrant, isolationist National Front party.
In a short concession speech after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, Le Pen promised to carry on her party’s nationalist and populist ideology, particularly in light of crucial legislative elections happening in June. Those elections are key to determining how broadly Macron will be able to implement his policy ideas.
One of the biggest issues he will face is high unemployment, particularly among the country’s youth, which has fueled Le Pen’s nationalist movement. France’s economy has never fully recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis, and many Le Pen supporters have called for the country to exit the European Union.
That is unlikely to happen now that Macron, who previously never held public office, has been elected. Macron will become France’s youngest president.
Following the victory, German Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier tweeted, “Vive La France! Vive L’Europe!”
Shortly after 9 p.m. local time, Macron delivered a 6-minute victory speech promising to defend French freedom and to strengthen the nation’s relations with Europe. He vowed to put France “on the front line” in the fight against terrorism and promised to make climate change a key policy issue of his administration.
While U.S. President Donald Trump clearly supported Le Pen without officially endorsing her, he tweeted congratulations to Macron following the French president–elect’s speech. Trump said he looked “very much forward to working” with Macron.