Centrist Macron to become France’s youngest president

Posted at 11:12 AM, May 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-07 14:29:15-04

PARIS (AP/CNN) — Political newcomer Emmanuel Macron will be France’s next president, delivering a resounding victory to an unabashedly pro-European former investment banker and strengthening France’s place as a central pillar of the European Union.

A crowd outside the Louvre museum at a Macron victory party jubilantly waved red, white and blue tricolor flags at the news.

If confirmed, the result would constitute a resounding rejection of far-right Marine Le Pen’s “French-first” nationalism and dash her hopes that the same populist wave that swept Donald Trump into the White House would also carry her to the French presidential Elysee Palace.

France is suffering from high unemployment, a stagnant economy and security worries. The government has struggled to cope with immigration and integration.

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

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 operation.

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.

Le Pen has spent the past few weeks battling to extend her appeal beyond her traditional base of supporters, while Macron has been attempting to convince voters that he is not part of the political elite they rejected in the first round.

Macron, 39, has campaigned on a pro-Europe, pro-integration platform. Le Pen, 48, has suggested she would aim to take France out of the European Union, withdraw it from NATO and forge closer ties with Russia.