Emmanuel Macron is heading for victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election on a pro-business, pro-European Union platform, bolstering the bloc in the midst of its worst security crisis for decades.
With counting still under way, projections by France's five main pollsters put Macron on course to win more than 57% of the vote in Sunday's runoff compared with 42% for Le Pen. The nationalist leader conceded defeat in a speech to her supporters in Paris.
The result is narrower than their second-round clash in 2017, when the same two candidates met in the run-off and Macron polled over 66 percent of the vote. The 44-year-old Macron becomes the first incumbent to win a second term since Jacques Chirac two decades ago. With campaigning shaped by the war in Ukraine, Macron's pledge to make France a cornerstone of a stronger, more integrated EU won out over the nativism and protectionism championed by Le Pen.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen hailed her score in presidential elections on Sunday as a "brilliant victory", despite her projected defeat to Emmanuel Macron. Promising to "carry on" her political career and vowing that she would "never abandon" the French, the 53-year-old said: "The result represents a brilliant victory."
Le Pen said there is "high risk" Macron will be able to secure majority in parliament. She also said her election result 'represents brilliant victory'.
The relatively comfortable margin of victory will nonetheless give Macron some confidence as he heads into a second five-year mandate, but the election also represents the closest the far-right has ever come to winning power in France.
A victory by Le Pen would have sent shockwaves around the world comparable to the 2016 polls that led to Brexit in Britain and Donald Trump's election in the United States.
The outcome, expected to be confirmed by official results overnight, will cause immense relief in Europe after fears a Le Pen presidency would leave the continent rudderless following Brexit and the departure of German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Such an outcome would reassure France's European allies, as well as markets - French bonds have gained over the past week as support for Le Pen started to ebb. Investors have been concerned at the prospect of a nationalist with longstanding sympathies for Russia taking power at a time when the European Union is confronting Vladimir Putin over his war with Ukraine.
In a victory speech on the Champ de Mars in central Paris at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, Macron vowed to respond to the anger of voters who backed his far-right rival, saying his new term would not continue unchanged from the last five years.
"An answer must be found to the anger and disagreements that led many of our compatriots to vote for the extreme right. It will be my responsibility and that of those around me," he told thousands of cheering supporters.
He also pledged a "renewed method" to govern France, adding that this "new era" would not be one of "continuity with the last term which is now ending".
In a combative speech to supporters in Paris in which she accepted the result but showed no sign of quitting politics, Le Pen, 53, said she would "never abandon" the French and was already preparing for the June legislative elections.
"The result represents a brilliant victory," she said to cheers.
"This evening, we launch the great battle for the legislative elections," Le Pen said, adding that she felt "hope" and calling on opponents of the president to join with her National Rally (RN) party.
- AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg