En Marche! chairman and former Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron has defeated former National Front chairwoman Marine Le Pen in a runoff vote in France’s presidential election Sunday, exit polls showed.
Exit polls show that Macron, a former member of the Socialist Party and self-proclaimed pragmatic centrist, has won roughly 65.5% of the vote, beating out immigration hawk and EU critic Le Pen by some 31%.
Pre-election polls showed Macron leading Le Pen by 20 percent or better, after the two nearly tied in the first round of voting in April.
Election day polling by a Belgian media outlet also showed Macron beating Le Pen 60 to 40.
Macron gained the support of left-wing and establishment center-right figures in France, including former presidential hopeful Francois Fillon of the Republicans.
Former US President Barack Obama also gave his blessing to the En Marche! campaign with a video message endorsing the 39-year old Macron.
“I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run,” said Obama. “He has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world.”
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, expressed support for the 48-year old Le Pen, but fell short of a formal endorsement.
In April, President Trump called Le Pen “the strongest on borders,” adding the then-National Front chairwoman was “the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
Le Pen had hoped for an upset victory, betting on the roughly one quarter of voters who remained undecided on the eve of the election to break for her anti-establishment campaign which has pledged a French exit from the EU modeled on the ‘Brexit’ now underway.
Turnout was markedly lower than both the 2012 presidential election and the first round of voting in April.
Despite Le Pen’s loss Sunday, this year’s election represents a dramatic shift in the fortunes of the National Front, which she temporarily left for the second round of voting in an effort to broaden support.
While Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, shocked observers with his 2002 second place finish in the first round of voting, the former National Front leader managed to secure less than 18% of the vote in the runoff.
Marine Le Pen, who has worked to shed the party’s xenophobic image created in part by her father’s controversial statements, won 17.9% of the vote in the first round of the 2012 election.
This year, however, Le Pen doubled the nationalist movement’s electoral performance – remaking the once fringe party into a viable alternative to the center-right Republicans.
In her concession speech Sunday night, Le Pen called for the National Front party to "renew itself", calling for a new name and a new image.
"I propose to transform our movement," said Le Pen. "I call on all patriots to join us." http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/229252