Emmanuel Macron defeats Marine Le Pen to become youngest French president

PARIS – Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has decisively won the French presidential election, projected results say.

Mr. Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by about 65% to 35% to become, at 39, the country’s youngest president, the Sunday results show.

If confirmed, he will also become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic’s foundation in 1958.

The preliminary results are based on a sample of ballots counted at polling stations around the country, which are then used to predict how the country votes as a whole. In the first round of the vote on April 30, these initial figures were fairly consistent with the final totals.

French officials began the process of determining the results after polling stations closed at 8 p.m. local time. Millions of people cast their ballots across the country amid a state of emergency, but turnout was lower than previous elections at 65.3 percent as of 5 p.m. local time.

Macron & Le Pen

Projections ahead of the vote showed around a 20-point lead for the centrist Macron, who hoped to build on his first-round victory and rally a wide range of French voters to oppose Le Pen.

Mr. Macron is a liberal centrist, pro-business and a strong supporter of the European Union. He left the Socialist government of President François Hollande last August to form his new movement – En Marche – saying it was neither left nor right wing.

However, his En Marche grouping has no seats in parliament at all. Legislative elections follow on quickly from the presidential poll – on 11 and 18 June.

En Marche will contest the elections as a party but Mr Macron may find himself needing to pull together a coalition to govern effectively, the BBC reported.

Mr. Macron will need to win over the abstainers and those who are sceptical about his political vision.

His campaign pledges included a 120,000 reduction in public-sector jobs, a cut in public spending by €60bn (£50bn; $65bn), and a lowering of the unemployment rate to below 7%.

He vowed to ease labour laws and give new protections to the self-employed. Mr Macron also stood on a pro-EU platform, in stark contrast to his opponent.

France’s election is a crucial moment for both the country and the European Union.

Le Pen has promised to pursue a French exit from the EU, a move that would likely lead to the collapse of the trading bloc.

Macron is running on a pro-EU platform, promising to reform the union and bring back economic prosperity to France.

The vote is being watched as the biggest test yet of how much support there is for France’s far-right.