“A new page of our long history is turned,” Macron said in his first statement after the results were announced.
Macron’s victory brings an end to a presidential contest labeled a rebuke of the political establishment. Both Macron and Le Pen cast themselves early on as outsiders who are far removed from the established parties that have ruled France for decades. It’s an anti-system characterization the two attempted to use against one another—Le Pen derided Macron during the final presidential debate as a Hollande 2.0, whereas Macron cast Le Pen as “the heiress of a name, of a political party, of a system that has prospered for years and years on the back of French people’s anger,” in apparent reference to her National Front (FN) party, which has maintained a fringe presence in French politics for most of its 45-year history. But Le Pen was able to capitalize on French disaffection with the existing political system, an erosion of the parties that once championed the working classes, and the notion that something fundamental—foreign—ails France.
Addressing her supporters in Paris, Le Pen said the country had “chosen continuity” and wished Macron “success in the face of the immense challenges facing France.” She added that her party must renew itself “to form a new political force.”
Hollande, the outgoing president, congratulated Macron on his victory, which he said “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to gather around the values of the Republic and mark their attachment to the European Union as a gateway for France to the world.”
Macron’s victory is merely the first step of his efforts to govern France: He must now turn his focus to the next month’s parliamentary elections, during which voters will return to the polls to elect members of the National Assembly, the country’s lower but more powerful house of parliament. The election is particularly important because it will likely determine who becomes Macron’s prime minister, an individual who almost always comes from the party that controls the chamber.
Although Macron’s young party doesn’t hold any parliamentary seats—making the chances of him commanding a legislative majority or having a premier from his party less likely—it won’t be that way for long. The centrist candidate has vowed to field candidates for all 577 of the chamber’s seats, pledging not to make “backroom deals” with other parties and instead putting forward a diverse pool of candidates, half of whom he said would be new to politics.
It’s an ambitious goal that polls suggest Macron may be able to pull off. A Wednesday poll by OpinionWay-SLPV Analytics puts Macron’s En Marche on track to win between 249 and 286 seats in the National Assembly, making it the largest party but just short of a majority. Centrist and conservative parties are expected to win between 200 and 210 seats, while the Socialists are projected to have the greatest loss, slumping from 280 seats to between 28 and 43 seats. Conversely, the far-right FN is anticipated to win between 15 and 25 seats, a marked increase from the two seats it now has.