Highlights of the French Presidential Vote

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[LePen concedes; bullet dodged. See also: Front National 'to be renamed' as Jean-Marie Le Pen criticises daughter's campaign. *RON*]

Aurelien Breeden, New York Times, 7 May 2017

French voters at a polling station in Paris on Sunday for the final round of the presidential election.CreditEric Gaillard/Reuters
■ The independent centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen and will become the next president of France, according to projections based on preliminary results on Sunday, in a campaign that offered voters a stark choice and whose final days were marked by a vicious second-round debate and a hacking attack against Mr. Macron.

■ Mr. Macron captured about 65 percent of the vote, according to the projections from several French polling institutes, while Ms. Le Pen was at about 35 percent.

■ At 5 p.m. French time, the voter turnout stood at 65.30 percent, according to the Interior Ministry, lower than in the past three presidential elections. Lower turnout had been expected to benefit Ms. Le Pen.

■ Polls closed at 7 p.m. in smaller towns and rural areas, where Ms. Le Pen has stronger support. In larger cities such as Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux, the polls closed at 8 p.m., and voters there were expected to favor Mr. Macron.

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■ Join our reporters here for live discussion and analysis of the election.
The Candidates

■ Mr. Macron, 39, is a former investment banker and economy minister who has never held elected office. He is a pro-business candidate who wants to overhaul France’s labor market, favors free trade and backs a stronger European Union. His campaign was hit late Friday by a large dump of leaked documents. There was an official French media blackout on sharing the specific contents of the hacking.

■ Ms. Le Pen, 48, is the leader of the far-right National Front party, although she temporarily stepped down from that position to campaign against Mr. Macron. She opposes globalization, backs protectionist economic policies, wants to drastically limit immigration and wants to leave the euro currency zone and organize a referendum on leaving the European Union.
What’s at Stake?

Quite a bit — for France, for Europe and for the world. The country has a population of 67 million, is the world’s sixth-largest economy and is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and a nuclear power. It is one of the oldest allies of the United States and is the world’s most-visited country. Since the French Revolution, the nation has often been viewed as a beacon of democratic ideals.

Crucially, France is a founding member of the European Union. Victory for Mr. Macron would be another setback for far-right populists in Europe, bringing sighs of relief in Berlin and Brussels (Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, was quick to congratulate Mr. Macron on Sunday night, as were several other European leaders).

The French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron greeted supporters after casting his vote on Sunday in Le Touquet, France. CreditPhilippe Wojazer/Reuters
The results were a blow to President Trump, who, without directly endorsing Ms. Le Pen, suggested he favored her candidacy. Former President Barack Obama expressed support for Mr. Macron.

Success for Ms. Le Pen, by contrast, would have allowed her to pursue her goal of leading France out of the euro currency zone or even the bloc itself, some fear that could bring about the downfall of the European Union.
The Importance of Turnout

Low turnout and a high number of blank ballots (a form of protest vote) had been expected to benefit Ms. Le Pen, whose voter base was shown by polls to be more committed than Mr. Macron’s. But that did not appear to be the case.

The turnout at 5 p.m. was 65.30 percent, according to the Interior Ministry. Turnout at the same point was 71.96 percent in 2012, 75.11 percent in 2007 and 67.62 percent in 2002. The figure on Sunday was even lower than turnout at the same stage in the first round, two weeks ago, which stood at 69.42 percent.

Many in France were being asked to choose between two candidates they did not support in the second round of voting, and the latest polls showed that about a quarter of France’s electorate were thinking of abstaining.

Mr. Macron had been expected to pick up support from the left and right in the runoff, if only from those who wanted to keep Ms. Le Pen from reaching the presidency — a French political tradition known as the “Republican Front,” in which mainstream parties ally against the far right.

There had been cracks in that front. On the right, conservatives who backed former Prime Minister François Fillon in the first round viewed Mr. Macron as too socially liberal and as an heir to François Hollande, France’s Socialist president, whose popularity has plummeted since his election.

More significantly, voters who supported the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round struggled with the idea of supporting Mr. Macron and his pro-business policies.Continue reading the main story

The French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at a polling station in Hénin-Beaumont, France, on Sunday.CreditFrancois Mori/Associated Press
The Hacking Investigation

The troves of data related to Mr. Macron’s movement, En Marche!, were leaked on the internet Friday night, hours before a legal prohibition on campaign communications went into effect.

Links to the zip and torrent files were posted under the profile of someone called EMLEAKS on Pastebin, an anonymous publishing website. The archive was shared on the popular forum 4chan and promoted on Twitter by far-right activists, before WikiLeaks gave it extensive exposure online.

The leak appeared to mostly involve documents that show the mundane inner workings of a presidential campaign, including professional and private emails, memos, contracts and accounting documents. The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the hacking of Mr. Macron’s campaign.

Mr. Macron’s campaign said in a statement shortly before the blackout went into effect that the professional and personal email accounts of some of its staff members had been hacked “some weeks ago.”

It said that all of the stolen documents were “legal” and “authentic” but that fake ones had been added to “sow doubt and disinformation.” It denounced the hack as an attempt to destabilize democracy.

It was not clear what was genuine and what wasn’t. It will presumably take experts weeks to sift through and assess all the leaked documents. Experts suspect a Russian-linked espionage operation known as A.P.T. 28, or Fancy Bear, may be involved, although there is no firm evidence that the operation was behind the thefts. European and American analysts have determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee last year.

En Marche! has been the target of hackers since last year. Last month, Trend Micro, a cybersecurity firm, said that a hacking group believed to be a Russian intelligence unit had attacked Mr. Macron’s campaign, sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords.
News Organizations Barred

Journalists working for several news organizations complained Sunday that the National Front had barred them from covering an election party in eastern Paris, without providing a justification.

The news organizations included BuzzFeed, Politico, and the investigative news website Mediapart. Other news outlets, including Le Monde and the left-leaning daily Libération, responded that they would boycott the event “out of solidarity.”

A National Front official told the Agence France-Presse that the journalists were being prevented from attending because there was not enough room at the event.
The Margin of Victory

Mr. Macron led consistently and widely in the polls, and he captured about 65 percent of the vote, according to the initial projections. Although he won by a 2-to-1 margin, the high number of abstentions makes it difficult to assess the extent of his mandate.

The victory for Mr. Macron is a sign, however, that the “Republican Front” still holds and that many in the French electorate still firmly reject the far right.

Still, despite losing, the number of votes for Ms. Le Pen represent unprecedented support for the National Front, which has made steady gains in local and national elections.
The Challenges for the Winner

The economy is the electorate’s main concern, and Mr. Macron will have to tackle high unemployment and sluggish growth while also addressing the worries of blue-collar workers about globalization and immigration.

Security is also a major concern, as reflected in a vicious debate on Wednesday in which the two candidates sparred over their antiterrorism policies and an attack in Paris that occurred just days before the first round of voting.

But the most pressing issue will be the legislative elections. Because Mr. Macron belongs to a new party, he will struggle to get enough representatives elected to the National Assembly, France’s lower and more powerful house of Parliament, to support their agenda.

Although the president nominates the prime minister, Mr. Macron must find someone who reflects the political majority in that assembly, to avoid a government-toppling motion of censure.

Without a majority, Mr. Macron could be forced into an uncomfortable collaboration with a legislature and a prime minister of an opposing political persuasion, significantly hobbling his or her ability to pursue goals.

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