French voters handed Emmanuel Macron, the independent candidate, a decisive victory in the presidential runoff Sunday over Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, buoying Europe’s political establishment that had watched with despair as populist movements threatened to derail the European experiment.
Macron, 39, who had all but been endorsed by Europe’s leaders after his first-round victory on April 23, earned 65.5 percent of the vote, according to early exit polls; Le Pen won 34.5 percent—slightly higher than polls had predicted. The polls projected Macron would win approximately 64 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was 74 percent by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, markedly lower than the 80 percent that turned out in 2012. Approximately 4 million blank votes were cast.
Not only is Macron the youngest president in French history (he’s a year younger than Louis-Napoléon, Napoléon Bonaparte’s nephew, who was 40 when he was elected in 1848), he is also the first president in modern French history who does not belong to a major political party. Despite briefly serving as economy minister under outgoing Socialist President François Hollande, Macron quit the government in August 2016 to launch his own independent party, En Marche!, which he said aimed to “reconcile the two Frances that have been growing apart for too long.” (Continues)