Gus Trompiz and John Irish – Reuters May 8, 2017
Emmanuel Macron was due to attend a ceremony marking the Western allies’ World War Two victory in Europe on Monday as relieved investment markets celebrated his election as French president.
The ceremony in Paris later on Monday marks the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. It comes less than 24 hours after the independent centrist declared he had beaten the present day forces of extremism in the shape of his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.
Polls had predicted a comfortable win for the 39-year-old ex-banker for months, but investors and European leaders had watched on anxiously as the election campaign lurched from one surprise and scandal to another, fretting over the possibility the anti-globalisation, anti-EU Le Pen could pull off an upset.
However, Macron prevailed with 66 percent of the vote to become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. Asian markets sent the euro to a six-month high against the dollar in the early hours after the result became clear, Asian shares gained and U.S. stock futures briefly touched a record high.
“Political risk in Europe has been considered as a major market theme this year. But in the Netherlands (anti-EU party leader Geert) Wilders lost in March. The French election is now out of the way,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.
“And in Germany the ruling Christian Democrats are recovering. The political risks in Europe have receded,” he said.
Macron’s victory also smashed the dominance of France´s mainstream parties. Even though he is an unknown quantity to some extent, the win brought huge relief to European allies who had feared another anti-globalisation electoral result to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.
It was still a record performance for the National Front, whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.
Macron had been accused of behaving as if he was already president after winning the first round two weeks ago. On Sunday night, with victory finally sealed, he was much more solemn.
“I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said in an address at his campaign headquarters, shown live on television.
“I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them,” he said. “I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”
He later strode alone almost grimly through the courtyard of the Louvre Palace in central Paris to the strains of the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, not breaking into a smile until he mounted the stage of his victory rally to the cheers of his partying supporters.
His immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for a political movement that is barely a year old, rebranded as La Republique En Marche (“Onward the Republic”), in order to implement his programme.