From the LA Times

In the end, French voters chose to look outward and not in on themselves after a divisive presidential election that devolved into a bitter clash over two opposing visions for the country and its place in Europe and the world.

Political leaders around the world offered their congratulations to Emmanuel Macron, breathing a sigh of relief that French voters on Sunday overwhelmingly picked a centrist who embraced the European Union and international cooperation over the extreme-right, anti-immigration Marine Le Pen and her National Front party.

In a joyful celebration at the Louvre Museum that drew thousands of dancing and cheering supporters, Macron, 39, pledged to be a president for all of the French and to bind the political wounds that have deeply divided the country.

“Tonight, there is only the reunited people of France,” he said. “The world is watching us. Europe and the world.”

Yet any hope that France might be ready to rally around its youngest-ever president were dashed as opponents across the political system declared loudly their intentions to mount a fierce resistance to Macron’s government.

After swiftly conceding the election, Le Pen said that her National Front was now the primary opposition party in France and called on her supporters to continue to stand up against the establishment.

“I call on all patriots to take part in the decisive political battles that are beginning today,” she said.

The mainstream Socialist and conservative parties that lost badly in this presidential election were already gearing up to try to regain ground in next month’s critical legislative elections.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate who came in a close fourth during the first round of voting last month, issued a call to his supporters to resist Macron and his reforms as they fight in the next round of elections. And one of the country’s major unions called for nationwide demonstrations Monday, a national holiday in France, to remind Macron that its members’ votes against Le Pen were not a sign of support for his policies.

As political honeymoons go, Macron’s may have ended before the clock struck midnight.

It had been a nail-biting campaign to the end with allegations of “massive and coordinated” hacking of Macron campaign documents to disrupt the vote just hours before the polls opened Sunday, and fears that the opinion polls might once again have gotten it wrong.

When the provisional results came in — 65.1% for Macron, 34.9% for Le Pen — there was an explosion of joy on one side and recrimination on the other.

Once again, the threat of rising populism, xenophobia and fear-mongering over immigration, security, Islam and terrorism had been seen off in Europe — for the moment. Macron may have won the battle, but he will need to secure a parliamentary majority in order to win the war over who gets to govern France.

After naming a prime minister, Macron will assemble what he has described as his administration’s “commando” — 15 ministers to push through his election pledges. But he could be forced to make changes to the lineup if he doesn’t win a convincing majority in the two-round legislative elections on June 11 and June 18 that will decide the 577 members of the National Assembly.

The president-elect has said that his insurgent movement “En Marche!” — or “Onward!” — will field candidates in all constituencies, but it will be starting almost from scratch without a single existing member of Parliament.

The pressure is on. After widespread disappointment in his two predecessors — the outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande and conservative Nicolas Sarkozy — voters expect Macron to live up to his promise to bring a fresh new style to the presidency and real economic and social change.

Sylvain Crepon, a French political analyst and member of the Radical Politics Observatory at the Paris-based Jean-Jaures think tank, said next month’s votes would be complicated for Macron.

“There are lots of uncertainties in the legislative elections, especially as the winner of the presidential election doesn’t even have a party and is insisting lawmakers must not [hold more than one elected position at a time], which concerns 40% of the outgoing members of Parliament,” Crepon said.

There are three possible outcomes. The new president could obtain an outright majority in the National Assembly, giving him the ability to govern as he sees fit. If he does not have a majority in the lower house and is forced to appoint a prime minister from an opposition party, he will be in a situation that the French call “cohabitation,” meaning he can do little.

The third possibility is that “En Marche!” would have the biggest group of lawmakers in the National Assembly, but not a clear majority, giving the new president some room to maneuver, but not a free hand.

The disarray in Hollande’s Socialist Party and Sarkozy’s Republicans following their humiliating rejection by voters in the presidential battle could work in Macron’s favor. However, the center-right Republicans are regrouping and have already produced a list of candidates for all parliamentary seats.

An OpinionWay-SLPV analytics survey last week suggested that Macron could win up to 286 seats in the National Assembly, the center-right parties around 200-210, the National Front 15-25, the Socialists up to 43 and the far-left up to eight seats..

President Trump tweeted his congratulations to Macron on the “big win” and said he looked forward to working with the president-elect.

Still, the recriminations began minutes after the election results flashed up on television screens.

Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, blamed his daughter’s advisors for her defeat. Her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, one of the party’s two members of Parliament, said the far-right had failed to get its message across.

Other party members floated the idea in televised interviews that Marechal-Le Pen, who is seen as even more right-wing than her aunt, might replace her as leader.

Le Pen’s defeat was a blow, but not a knockout for Europe’s far-right parties, which have picked up support across the continent as disillusionment with the EU grows and countries struggle to emerge from a long economic crisis that has left many mired in slow growth and high unemployment, while simultaneously dealing with waves of migrants fleeing war and poverty around the world.

In March, Dutch voters scuppered right-wing populist Geert Wilders’ promised “Patriotic Spring” revolution, giving him less than 13% of the vote in legislative elections and delivering a clear victory to his liberal rival, Mark Rutte.

Last December, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party was narrowly defeated in a presidential vote but claimed it was in “pole position” for legislative elections next year. Sweden also holds a general election next year with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party currently in third place.

Far-right movements have also been picking up public support and making electoral gains in Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Germany.

Joel Gombin, one of France’s leading experts on the far right, said the National Front, or FN, could increase its representation in Parliament considerably.

“Traditionally the FN doesn’t do so well in legislative elections, but we will see some probable increase following the presidential success,” Gombin said. “I’m not sure it will be anywhere near the 100 MPs the FN announced, but it could be between 15 and 20, and even then it’s 10 times more than the party has at present.”

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