President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he “celebrated” the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential elections, in which he defeated the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

“I celebrate the triumph of President Emmanuel Macron. The French people once again put wax in their ears so as not to hear ‘the song of the sirens’; they opted for their historical legacy: freedom, equality and fraternity. My friend Mélenchon helped a lot,” he said. López Obrador in a brief publication on his social networks, referring to the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was left at the gates of the ballot with almost 22% of the vote in the first round.

Emmanuel Macron handily defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday, averting a political earthquake for Europe, but acknowledged dissatisfaction with his first term and said he will try to make changes.

His fans jumped for joy when the results appeared on a giant screen on the Champ de Mars, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Leaders in Berlin, Brussels, London and beyond welcomed her triumph over nationalist and Eurosceptic Le Pen.

With 100% of the votes counted, Macron achieved a solid victory with 58.55% of the votes, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior. However, in his victory speech he acknowledged that many voted for him only to leave out Le Pen and promised to address the feeling among many French that their standards of living are declining.

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“Many voted for me in this country not because they support my ideas, but to keep the extreme right out. I want to thank them and I know I owe them a debt for years to come,” he said. “No one will be left out in France.”

This count gives Macron 18.7 million votes, compared to 13.2 million obtained by his direct rival, Marine Le Pen. The leader of the National Association has achieved around 41.45 percent of the votes.

Both had already faced each other in the second round of the 2017 elections, when Macron won 66% of the vote. In fact, Le Pen has described his result this Sunday as “historic”, unprecedented for the extreme right in France.

Data from the Ministry of the Interior put the turnout rate at around 72%, so abstention would be 28%, the highest since 1969. Of the 48.7 million registered voters, 13.6 million have not voted. Likewise, 4.57% of the voters who have participated have voted blank, while 1.62% correspond to invalid votes.

Two years of disruption from the pandemic and a spike in energy prices exacerbated by the war in Ukraine propelled economic woes to the forefront of the campaign. The rising cost of living has become a growing strain for the country’s poorest.

Le Pen, who at one point in the campaign came within a few points of Macron in opinion polls, he quickly conceded defeat, but vowed to keep fighting in parliamentary elections in June.

“I will never abandon the French,” he told his supporters as they chanted “Marine! Marine!”

No grace period

Macron can expect little or no grace period in a country whose sharp political divisions were exposed in an election in which radical parties performed well. Many expect the street protests that marred part of his first term to flare up again as he pushes forward with his pro-business reforms.

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“There will be continuity in government policy because the president has been re-elected,” said Health Minister Olivier Veran. “But we have also heard the message from the French.”

How Macron fares now will depend on the upcoming parliamentary elections. Le Pen wants a nationalist alliance in a move that raises the possibility of working alongside far-right rivals like Eric Zemmour and his niece, Marion Marechal.

Far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has emerged as the biggest force on the left in French politics, has said he deserves to be prime minister, something that would force Macron into an uncomfortable and stall-prone “cohabitation.”

french division

Disappointment with Macron was reflected in an expected abstention rate of around 28%, the highest since 1969.

Early results showed the vote was highly divided by age and socioeconomic status: Two-thirds of working-class voters backed Le Pen, while similar proportions of white-collar executives and pensioners supported the president, according to an Elabe poll.

Macron got about 59% of the votes from the 18-24 age bracket, with the vote roughly split in half in the other age categories.

During the campaign, Le Pen focused on Macron’s rising cost of living and sometimes abrasive style as some of his weakest points.

He promised deep fuel tax cuts, a 0% sales tax on essential items from pasta to diapers, exemptions for young workers and a “France first” stance on jobs and welfare.

For his part, Macron pointed out that his rival’s past admiration for Vladimir Putin shows that he is not reliable on the world stage, while insisting that he maintains his plans to take France out of the EU, something that she denied.

(With information from AFP and Europa Press.)

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