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French election: Macron defeats far right candidate Le Pen

PARIS — France’s president-elect Emmanuel Macron has promised to “fight the divisions that undermine France,” after defeating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Estimates from CNN’s affiliate BFMTV-Elabe project Macron will take 65.9% of the vote, while Le Pen is expected to get 34.1%.

In a clear rejection of France’s mainstream parties, voters turned to the 39-year-old to help bring unity to a deeply fractured country.

The result is remarkable considering Macron, a centrist independent, campaigned without a traditional party and with no experience of governing.

“I know the country is divided and this has led to people voting for extremes,” Macron said in a speech at his team’s headquarters.

“I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubt which many of you have expressed and it is my responsibility to hear that.

“A new page of our history has turned this evening, I want that page to be one of hope and refound trust, the renewal of our public life, will be at the base of what I do from the very first day of our Presidency”

‘Breakthrough’

France’s Interior Minister, Matthias Fekl confirmed Macron’s victory late Sunday.

While the official result will not be announced until next week, Fekl said the “breakthrough” of Macron was quite clear.

“Tonight, French people have expressed a clear democratic choice,” Fekl said in a statement.

“I want to address to Emmanuel Macron my most sincere congratulations. At a moment so important for our country, at a very serious hour for Europe, I wish him a complete success in his mandate at the service of France, at the service of French people.”

Le Pen concedes

Earlier, Le Pen told supporters she had called to congratulate Macron after exit estimates projected a heavy defeat for the far-right candidate.

“The French have chosen a new president,” Le Pen told supporters.

“I have called Mr Macron to congratulate him on his election and I wished him success in this very senior post he is going to occupy and also the great challenges in front of him.

“We have seen that we are the first opposition forces to the new president. The little formations who have supported Macron have discredited themselves and have lost all kinds of legitimacy in wanting a deep profound change.

“We have seen a major decomposition of French political life, of the old political mainstream parties and what we see now is a real new configuration which is emerging between the patriots and the new liberals.”

French president Francois Hollande said that he had called Macron to “warmly” congratulate him on his victory.

“His large victory confirms that a very large majority of our citizens wanted to assemble around the values of the Republic and mark their attachment to the European Union as well as to the openness of France in the world,” Hollande said in a statement.

US President Donald Trump also congratulated Macron, writing on Twitter: “Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his big win today as the next President of France. I look very much forward to working with him!”

Europe rejoices

The scenes of jubilation extended beyond France.

Macron, a staunch supporter of the European Union, was also congratulated by a number of leaders he will be expecting to work with in the coming weeks.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker wrote on Twitter that he was “happy that the French chose a European future,” while president of the European Council Donald Tusk congratulated the “French people for choosing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity over tyranny of fake news.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were also quick to send their congratulations to Macron, who has been outspoken of his desire to work with France’s European partners.

Security was tight across France as voters cast their ballots on Sunday. with the the last polling stations closing at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET).

Macron cast his ballot in Le Touquet, northern France, while Le Pen voted in Henin-Beaumont.

In the first round two weeks ago, voters rejected representatives of all the traditional mainstream political parties in France. Macron and Le Pen topped an 11-strong field, taking 24% and 21% of the vote respectively.

Eleventh hour hack

The two-round election, which has played out like something of a soap opera, was hit with another scandal at the eleventh hour, when Macron’s campaign announced it had been the target of a “massive and coordinated” hacking operatio

Around 14.5 gigabytes of emails, personal and business documents were posted to the text-sharing site Pastebin just hours before the campaign period came to a close Friday night.

Macron’s party said the hackers had mixed fake documents with authentic ones “to create confusion and misinformation.” It is not clear who was behind the attack.

With the presidential election almost wrapped, attention will soon turn to the parliamentary contest.

Macron, whose party En Marche! is less than a year old, is starting from scratch. If he does not persuade enough voters to back his candidates, he will have to strike deals with other parties in order to push through his legislative agenda.