PARIS – Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, triumphing over Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger, on Sunday after a campaign in which his pledge of stability triumphed over the strong temptation of an extremist sting.
Ms. Le Pen relented to Macron not long after the polls were closed. His win, which claimed 58.2 percent of the vote for Ms. Le Pen’s 41.8 percent was much smaller than in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent for Ms. LePen.
The French generally don’t like their presidents, and none have managed to get reelected since 2002. Mr Macron’s unusual feat to come to power for another five years reflects his effective stewardship of the Covid-19 crisis, his resurgence in the economy, and his political agility to occupy the entire center of the political spectrum.
Softening her image, if not her nationalist anti-immigrant program, Ms. Le Pen was part of a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the far right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined joined the mainstream and ended the taboo that defending the Republic meant keeping the far right on the margins.
Mr Macron’s victory over Mrs Le Pen, a longtime sympathizer of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the leader of a party hostile to NATO, will be a relief for the United States and France’s European allies in a time when war is raging in Ukraine.
Judging by her program and past actions, Mrs. Le Pen is said to have pursued a policy that weakened the united allied front to save Ukraine from Russian attack, left Mr Putin a breach to exploit in Europe , and the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment.
If Brexit had been a blow to unity, a French nationalist quasi-exit, as set out in Ms Le Pen’s proposals, would have kept the European Union alive. That, in turn, would have paralyzed an essential guarantee of peace on the continent in a fleeting moment.
Macron’s second win felt different from his first. Five years ago, he was a 39-year-old child prodigy who burst onto the French political scene with the promise of burying sterile left-right divisions and building a more just, equal, open and dynamic society.
He succeeded in boosting growth, reducing unemployment and creating a technology start-up culture, but was unable to overcome the growing inequality or the simmering anger among the alienated and struggling people in neglected urban and remote areas. tackling the countryside. Social divisions deepened as incomes stagnated, prices rose and automation wiped out factory jobs.
As a result, Macron’s political capital is more limited, even if his clear victory saved France from a dangerous tendency towards xenophobic nationalism.