PARIS — The European political establishment breathed a heavy sigh of relief Sunday, as French voters easily elected pragmatic centrist Emmanuel Macron as president over right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen, who threatened to upend Europe’s existing order, according to polling agency projections.
Macron won with 65.5% of votes against 34.5% for Marine Le Pen. Le Pen called Macron to congratulate him on his victory, as did current French President François Hollande. Leaders from across Europe also sent messages of congratulation.
Le Pen had threatened to curb immigration, particularly for Muslims, pull France out of the European Union and return the country to the French franc currency — moves that would have caused political and economic upheaval not only in Europe, but the rest of the world.
Macron, 39, is a former investment banker and economy minister who strongly supports the European Union. He is France's youngest ever president.
Macron’s victory, coming on the heels of defeats for right-wing populist candidates in Austria and the Netherlands, appears to blunt the anti-establishment fervor sweeping Europe amid a backlash against economic stagnation, a flood of migrants pouring into their countries and a string of nerve-rattling terror attacks.
His supporters gathered outside the Louvre museum Sunday for a victory party.
"It's the first time I have ever been involved in politics," said Laurence Falque, 57, a doctor from Paris who said he worked to get out the vote on the candidate's behalf. "He brings people together. He is young, he is smart, pragmatic. I like the individual, I agree with his ideas."
Falque said he would have been devastated by a Le Pen victory.
But Macron's triumph does not necessarily signal the end of populism.