Macron vows to respond to voter anger after beating far-right Le Pen in presidential elections

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday vowed to find a response to the anger of voters who backed his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in elections, 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 a victory rally in front of the Eiffel Tower after projections showed he had been re-elected.

Macron 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".

Macron's victory

Cheers of joy erupted as the results appeared on a giant screen at the Champ de Mars park at the foot of the Eiffel tower, where Macron supporters waved French and EU flags. People hugged each other, danced and chanted "Macron!".

European leaders also welcomed the news that pro-European Union Macron and not nationalist eurosceptic Le Pen had won.

Pollsters projected Macron securing around 58.5% of the vote. Such estimates are normally accurate but may be fine-tuned as official results come in.

"I am very relieved - it had looked very close and populism was at our door," 42-year old Alessandro Paleni told the Reuters news agency at the Macron rally. But he stressed the president faced a difficult task given how many votes went to the far-right.

Le Pen, who at one stage of the campaign had trailed Macron by just a few points in opinion polls, quickly admitted defeat but vowed to keep up the fight, with parliamentary elections looming in June.

"I will never abandon the French," she said to supporters chanting "Marine! Marine!"

Parliamentary elections

Macron can expect little to no grace period after many, especially on the left, only voted for him reluctantly to block the far-right from winning. Protests that marred part of his first mandate could erupt again quite quickly, as he tries to press on with pro-business reforms.

"We will not spoil the victory ... but (Le Pen's) National Rally has its highest score ever," Health Minister Olivier Veran told BFM TV.

"There will be continuity in government policy because the president has been reelected. But we have also heard the French people's message," he added, pledging change.

The nature of Macron's second term will be heavily influenced by the outcome of parliamentary elections in June. Le Pen said she aimed for a strong contingent in the assembly while hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon said he wants to be Prime Minister, something that would force Macron into an awkward and stalemate-prone "cohabitation".

European reactions

Sunday's victory for Macron was immediately hailed by allies as a reprieve for mainstream politics that have been rocked in recent years by Britain's exit from the European Union, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders.

"Bravo Emmanuel," European Council President Charles Michel, wrote on Twitter. "In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union."

"The financial markets will breathe a collective sigh of relief following Macron's election victory," said Seema Shah, Chief Strategist at Principal Global Investors

Macron will join a small club - only two French presidents before him have managed to secure a second term. But his margin of victory looks to be tighter than when he first beat Le Pen in 2017, underlining how many French remain unimpressed with him and his domestic record.

That disillusion was reflected in turnout figures, with France's main polling institutes saying the abstention rate would likely settle around 28%, the highest since 1969.

(with wires)

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