May 24, 2017

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Pro-EU Macron wins France's presidency, Le Pen hopes dashed

PARIS - Ripping up France's political map, French voters elected independent centrist Emmanuel Macron as the country's youngest president Sunday, delivering a resounding victory to the unabashedly pro-European former investment banker and dashing the populist dream of far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Macron, who had never run for office before, celebrated with thousands of jubilant, flag-waving supporters outside the Louvre Museum in Paris on Sunday night.

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron gives a thumbs up as he leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in the presidential runoff election in Le Touquet, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron gives a thumbs up as he leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in the presidential runoff election in Le Touquet, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen exits a voting booth before casting her ballot in Henin Beaumont, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen exits a voting booth before casting her ballot in Henin Beaumont, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Children walk past election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, in Osses, southwestern France, Friday May 5, 2017. France will vote on Sunday May 7 in the second round of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

Children walk past election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, in Osses, southwestern France, Friday May 5, 2017. France will vote on Sunday May 7 in the second round of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

Workers prepare the booths at a polling station in Saint Cloud, outside Paris, France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president starts in overseas territories and French embassies abroad, as a blackout on campaigning descends so that voters can reflect on whether to entrust their country's future to independent Emmanuel Macron or far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Workers prepare the booths at a polling station in Saint Cloud, outside Paris, France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president starts in overseas territories and French embassies abroad, as a blackout on campaigning descends so that voters can reflect on whether to entrust their country's future to independent Emmanuel Macron or far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Workers prepare ballots at a polling station at the town hall of Bayonne, southwestern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. France will vote on Sunday May 7 in the second round of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

Workers prepare ballots at a polling station at the town hall of Bayonne, southwestern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. France will vote on Sunday May 7 in the second round of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

An worker places the ballots on a table at a polling station at the town hall of Bayonne, southwestern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. France will vote on Sunday May 7 in the second round of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

An worker places the ballots on a table at a polling station at the town hall of Bayonne, southwestern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. France will vote on Sunday May 7 in the second round of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron shakes hands to supporters as he campaigns in Rodez, southern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. The 39-year-old independent candidate faces far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron shakes hands to supporters as he campaigns in Rodez, southern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. The 39-year-old independent candidate faces far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are displayed in front of the polling station where Marine Le Pen will vote in Henin Beaumont, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president starts in overseas territories and French embassies abroad, as a blackout on campaigning descends so that voters can reflect on whether to entrust their country's future to independent Emmanuel Macron or far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are displayed in front of the polling station where Marine Le Pen will vote in Henin Beaumont, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president starts in overseas territories and French embassies abroad, as a blackout on campaigning descends so that voters can reflect on whether to entrust their country's future to independent Emmanuel Macron or far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Election campaign posters for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are displayed in Henin Beaumont, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president starts in overseas territories and French embassies abroad, as a blackout on campaigning descends so that voters can reflect on whether to entrust their country's future to independent Emmanuel Macron or far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Election campaign posters for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are displayed in Henin Beaumont, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president starts in overseas territories and French embassies abroad, as a blackout on campaigning descends so that voters can reflect on whether to entrust their country's future to independent Emmanuel Macron or far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, center, and his wife Brigitte, right, walk in a street of Le Touquet, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president has started in some overseas territories one day before voters in the mainland cast their ballots in Sunday's runoff between independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, center, and his wife Brigitte, right, walk in a street of Le Touquet, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. Voting for France's next president has started in some overseas territories one day before voters in the mainland cast their ballots in Sunday's runoff between independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron waves as he leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in the presidential runoff election in Le Touquet, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron waves as he leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in the presidential runoff election in Le Touquet, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Soldiers patrol in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris, France Sunday, May 7, 2017. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's press office said that the Esplanade du Louvre, where the centrist candidate plans to celebrate if he wins the French presidential election was earlier evacuated after a security alert.(AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Soldiers patrol in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris, France Sunday, May 7, 2017. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's press office said that the Esplanade du Louvre, where the centrist candidate plans to celebrate if he wins the French presidential election was earlier evacuated after a security alert.(AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron gives a thumbs up as he leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in the presidential runoff election in Le Touquet, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron gives a thumbs up as he leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in the presidential runoff election in Le Touquet, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen leaves Henin Beaumont, France, on her way back to Paris after casting her ballot Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen leaves Henin Beaumont, France, on her way back to Paris after casting her ballot Sunday, May 7, 2017. Voters across France are choosing a new president in an unusually tense and important election that could decide Europe's future, making a stark choice between pro-business progressive Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Supporters of incoming French President Emmanuel Macron wave French flags as the preliminary results of the runoff presidential election are announced at the Louvre museum in Paris, Sunday May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. (Philippe Lopez, Pool photo via AP)

Supporters of incoming French President Emmanuel Macron wave French flags as the preliminary results of the runoff presidential election are announced at the Louvre museum in Paris, Sunday May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. (Philippe Lopez, Pool photo via AP)

Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron kiss as they celebrate outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron kiss as they celebrate outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

A supporter of Emmanuel Macron is draped in an European flag while a woman waves a French flag at the Louvre museum where Emmanuel Macron is planning to celebrate, Sunday, May 7, 2017 in Paris. Ripping up France's political map, French voters elected centrist Emmanuel Macron as the country's youngest president ever Sunday, delivering a resounding victory to the unabashedly pro-European former investment banker and strengthening France's place as a central pillar of the European Union. (AP Photo/Buhran Ozbilici)

A supporter of Emmanuel Macron is draped in an European flag while a woman waves a French flag at the Louvre museum where Emmanuel Macron is planning to celebrate, Sunday, May 7, 2017 in Paris. Ripping up France's political map, French voters elected centrist Emmanuel Macron as the country's youngest president ever Sunday, delivering a resounding victory to the unabashedly pro-European former investment banker and strengthening France's place as a central pillar of the European Union. (AP Photo/Buhran Ozbilici)

Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron react outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron react outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron gestures during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Speaking to thousands of supporters from the Louvre Museum's courtyard, Macron said that France is facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron gestures during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Speaking to thousands of supporters from the Louvre Museum's courtyard, Macron said that France is facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron holds hands with his wife Brigitte during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Speaking to thousands of supporters from the Louvre Museum's courtyard, Macron said that France is facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron holds hands with his wife Brigitte during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Speaking to thousands of supporters from the Louvre Museum's courtyard, Macron said that France is facing an "immense task" to rebuild European unity, fix the economy and ensure security against extremist threats. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron react outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Supporters of French independent centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron react outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. Polling agencies have projected that centrist Emmanuel Macron will be France's next president, putting a 39-year-old political novice at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies and slowing a global populist wave. The agencies projected that Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen 65 percent to 35 percent on Sunday. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen leaves after speaking at her election day headquarters Sunday, May 7, 2017 in Paris. Le Pen says she has called centrist Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him and says the vote confirms her National Front party and its allies as the leader of France's opposition. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen leaves after speaking at her election day headquarters Sunday, May 7, 2017 in Paris. Le Pen says she has called centrist Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him and says the vote confirms her National Front party and its allies as the leader of France's opposition. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The European anthem "Ode to Joy" played as he strode out to address the swelling crowd.

"France has won!" he said. "Everyone said it was impossible. But they do not know France!"

Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent in the runoff, quickly called the 39-year-old Macron to concede after voters rejected her "French-first" nationalism by a large margin. Le Pen's performance punctured her hopes that the populist wave which swept Donald Trump into the White House and led Britain to vote to leave the EU would also carry her to France's presidential Elysee Palace.

Macron told the Louvre crowd that the Le Pen vote was one of "anger, disarray."

"I will do everything in the five years to come so there is no more reason to vote for the extremes," he said.

Earlier, in a solemn televised victory speech, Macron vowed to heal the social divisions exposed by France's acrimonious election campaign.

"I know the divisions in our nation that led some to extreme votes. I respect them," he declared, unsmiling. "I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a large number of you also expressed. It is my responsibility to hear them."

The result wasn't close: With about 90 per cent of votes counted, Macron had 64 per cent support. Le Pen had 36 per cent — about double what Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and co-founder of their National Front party, achieved at the same stage in the 2002 presidential election.

Macron's victory strengthens France's place as a central pillar of the European Union, and marked the third time in six months — following elections in Austria and the Netherlands — that European voters shot down far-right populists who wanted to restore borders across Europe. The election of a French president who champions European unity could also strengthen the EU's hand in its complex divorce proceedings with Britain.

Parisians lined the streets outside Macron's campaign headquarters to see his motorcade whisk him away to the Louvre party. His wife, Brigitte, joined him on stage after his address.

Macron said he understood that some voters backed him reluctantly, simply to keep out Le Pen and her National Front party, which has a long history of anti-Semitism and racism.

"I know that this is not a blank check," he said. "I know about our disagreements. I will respect them."

After the most closely watched and unpredictable French presidential campaign in recent memory, many voters rejected the runoff choices altogether — casting blank or spoiled ballots in record numbers Sunday. Police sprayed tear gas and detained dozens of protesters holding running demonstrations through eastern Paris after the election results came out.

Congratulatory messages poured in from abroad. Trump tweeted congratulations on what he called Macron's "big win" and said he looked forward to working with the new French leader. Macron has said he wants continued intelligence-sharing with the United States and co-operation at the United Nations and hopes to persuade Trump not to pull the U.S. out of a global accord fighting climate change.

Germany's foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, laced his welcome for Macron with a warning to the French, saying: "If he fails, in five years Mrs. Le Pen will be president and the European project will go to the dogs."

Macron becomes not only France's youngest-ever president but also one of its most unlikely. Until now, modern France had been governed either by the Socialists or the conservatives, but both of their candidates were eliminated before the runoff.

"France has sent an incredible message to itself, to Europe and the world," said Macron ally Francois Bayrou, tipped among his possible choices for prime minister.

Unknown to voters before his turbulent 2014-16 tenure as France's pro-business economy minister, Macron took a giant gamble by quitting Socialist President Francois Hollande's government to run as an independent. His startup political movement — optimistically named "En Marche! (In Motion)" — caught fire in just one year, harnessing voters' hunger for new faces and new ideas.

"I'm so happy, it feels so good! I lived the election of Donald Trump in New York, and now finally, after Brexit, after Trump, populism has been beaten in France," Macron supporter Pierre-Yves Colinet said at the Louvre party. "Today, I'm proud to be French."

Despite her loss, Le Pen's advancement to the presidential runoff for the first time marked a breakthrough for the 48-year-old and underscored a growing acceptance of her anti-immigration, France-first nationalism.

Le Pen immediately turned her focus to France's upcoming legislative election in June, where Macron will need a working majority to govern effectively. Le Pen said her "historic and massive" score turned her party into "the leading opposition force against the new president's plans."

"I call on all patriots to join us," Le Pen said. "France will need you more than ever in the months ahead."

Her supporters at a National Front election night gathering in Paris put on a brave face.

"Now we enter combat," said Didier Roxel, a National Front legislative candidate.

Le Pen said she won 11 million votes, which would be her party's highest-ever electoral score.

Macron and Le Pen offered polar-opposite visions: Le Pen's closed borders against Macron's open ones; his commitment to free trade ran against her proposals to protect the French from global economic competition and immigration. Her desire to free France from the EU and the shared euro currency contrasted with his argument that both are essential for the future of Europe's third-largest economy.

Macron also got lucky in the campaign. One of his most dangerous opponents, conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, was vilified after allegations that his family benefited from cushy taxpayer-funded jobs for years. Fillon is facing charges in the case.

On the left, the Socialist Party imploded, its candidate abandoned by voters who wanted to punish Hollande, France's most unpopular president since World War II. Hollande himself decided not to run again.

Macron takes charge of a nation that, when Britain leaves the EU in 2019, will become the EU's only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

But the vote also showed that France's 67 million people are deeply divided, riven by anxieties about terrorism and chronic unemployment, worried about the cultural and economic impact of immigration and fearful of France's ability to compete against giants like China and Google.

Macron has promised a France that would stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin but that also would seek to work with Putin on fighting the Islamic State group, whose extremists have claimed multiple attacks in France since 2015.

France has been in a state of emergency since then and 50,000 security forces were out to safeguarded Sunday's vote.

___

Associated Press writers Angela Charlton, Samuel Petrequin, Lori Hinnant, Thomas Adamson, Philippe Sotto, Raphael Satter, Elaine Ganley, David Keyton and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny contributed to this report.

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