Le Pen concedes election, but calls result a victory
From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Camille Knight in Paris
Marine Le Pen has conceded defeat in the second round of the French presidential election, even as she celebrated her “historic score” in the vote.
"A great wind of freedom could have blown over our country, the fate of the ballot box wanted otherwise.”
But Le Pen shrugged off disappointment at her National Rally party’s campaign event in western Paris, casting her loss as a victory for her movement and the “forgotten” French people who voted for her.
“The results of tonight represent a shining victory.
“In this defeat, I can't help but feel a form of hope. This result constitutes for our French leaders as for the European leaders the testimony of a great mistrust of the French people towards them which they cannot ignore and that of the widely shared aspiration of a great change,” she said.
Her supporters appeared ebullient even in defeat, interrupting her speech with chants of “Marine, Marine, Marine.”
Le Pen pointed to legislative elections in two months, and urged those who voted for her to keep supporting the National Rally party.
She added: “I will not abandon the French! Vive la France,” she concluded.
4:42 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022
Relief and concern for French allies as Macron's victory soured by millions voting for Le Pen
Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee
Emmanuel Macron will serve a second term as the president of France – the first person to do so since 2002 – pollsters have projected.
His victory over right-wing rival Marine Le Pen by a relatively comfortable margin of 58.8% to 41.2% will be met with a huge sigh of relief in the capital cities of France’s most prominent allies – most notably in Brussels, home of the European Union and NATO.
Le Pen could almost be purpose built as someone leaders of the Western alliance would least like running a country as important as France.
France is a member of NATO, the EU and the G7. It has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and is a nuclear power. Yet despite its deep embedment in these pillars of the Western order, France also historically favors an autonomous foreign policy, meaning it can act as a broker between the US-led Western order and nations like Iran, China and Russia.
Le Pen’s previous ties to Russia, unenthusiastic view of NATO and hostile view of the EU meant that her victory would have rattled cages around the world.
However, if the projections are correct, the scale of Macron’s victory tonight will mean celebrations are cut short for many French allies. Far from Macron’s impressive 2017 victory, where he defeated Le Pen comfortably with 66% of the vote, that margin is now much smaller.
For all that defeating the far-right for the second time is a great victory for Macron, France’s allies will be very awake to the fact that nearly 42% of French voters, according to the data, supported someone who stands against so much of what they are for.
Nowhere will this be felt more acutely than among the leadership of NATO and the EU.
For NATO, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been the first real test of the alliance’s unity in years. While eyebrows were raised at some of the decisions taken by Macron during the crisis, NATO has largely been on the same page.
Based on Le Pen’s previous relationship with Putin and disdain for NATO, very few thought this wouldn’t create a problem not just in NATO, but also at the UN Security Council.
When it comes to the EU, Macron has hardly been shy about his desire for Europe to become stronger and more united in terms of its security and foreign policy. His vision of European unity at times irritates many of his counterparts, who think he is trying to force through a French vision for Europe, though his commitment to the project cannot be questioned.
Le Pen, on the other hand, is more dangerous than someone who wants France to leave the EU: she would be able to lead the group of Euroskeptics who want to take over the bloc from within.
There are a significant number of these people already represented in the EU institutions. In the parliament, far-right parties are represented in a number of countries. Where things get messier is at the national level.
There are EU member states, most notably Hungary and Poland, that are led by people whose view of the EU is very close to that of Le Pen. This was underscored last year when she joined numerous other right-wing leaders, including national leaders, in an open letter opposing many of the progressive ideas that have been proposed over the past decades by Brussels.
For the traditional West, Macron’s second term is a moment of great relief, but also a moment of warning. If the far-right continues to make gains, there could be a very different outcome five years from now.
2:16 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022
BREAKING: MACRON WILL WIN SECOND TERM AS FRENCH PRESIDENT, POLLSTERS PROJECT
Emmanuel Macron will win France's presidential election, pollsters project, fending off a historic challenge from right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen during Sunday's runoff vote.
President Macron is expected to take 58.2% of the vote to Le Pen's 41.8%, according to an analysis of voting data by pollsters Ipsos & Sopra Steria conducted for broadcasters France Televisions and Radio France.
French pollsters typically release projections at 8 p.m. local time, when the polls close in major cities and several hours before the French Interior Ministry releases the official results.
These projections, which are based on data from voting stations that close at 7 p.m. in the rest of the country, are usually used by the candidates and French media to declare a winner.
2:06 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022
Cost of living and the war in Ukraine were among the most pressing issues for French voters
From CNN's Joshua Berlinger and Joseph Ataman in Paris
Several key issues have dominated the French presidential campaign this year.
The cost of living: The cost of living is among the top issues for the French electorate this year. Faced with the economic fallout from the pandemic, high energy prices and the war in Ukraine, voters are feeling the pinch, despite generous government support. Though inflation is a problem, unemployment remains historically low.
While financial pressures may be insufficient to whitewash some candidates' extremism in voters' minds, they may push some to look for unorthodox answers to their problems.
Macron promises to continue forging ahead with a globalized, free market-focused France. Le Pen wants to completely upend the status quo with protectionist economic policies.
Le Pen has also pushed for several measures to help people cope with rising prices, such as slashing sales taxes on fuel and removing income tax for people younger than 30. Le Pen's camp, however, has not fully explained how they will pay for these, according to critics. Others say they may not all be constitutionally sound.
Macron has proposed a swathe of tax cuts, including on income and real estate. But his call to increase the retirement age to 65 has been met with hostility by the French public on both the left and the right, and he appears to have softened his stance on the proposal while campaigning.
The war in Ukraine: Though the fighting is a long way from the bistros and cafes of France, the conflict is certainly on voters' minds. Just shy of 90% of French people were worried about the war in the last week of March, according to pollster Ifop. Given Le Pen's support for Putin before the war started, this has played in Macron's favor so far.
Europe: Macron wants France at the head of a muscular European Union. Le Pen is a famous euroskeptic who, in the 2017 election, proposed a national referendum asking France if they wanted to leave the bloc and abandon the euro. Le Pen says she no longer wishes to exit the EU, but experts say many of her proposed policies would put France on a political collision course with Europe.
Islamic headscarves: Though Le Pen has softened her language around Islam, "eradicating Islamist ideologies" remains one of her two priorities in her campaign manifesto.
Macron, while campaigning, has highlighted the threat of Islamists and Muslim "separatists" in France, and his government has closed several mosques deemed radical by authority. However, he has no plans to ban headscarves in public.
The climate crisis: The environmental crisis did not feature as a major issue on the campaign trail. Although the importance of climate protections is gaining traction globally, it's less of a concern in France, which sourced 75% of its electricity needs in 2020 from nuclear energy, according to the French environment ministry. Most candidates in the first round backed the kind of nuclear development Macron has already announced, so there is little divergence on this issue.
However, Macron and Le Pen have sparred over wind and solar power. Le Pen argues that the two are expensive and inefficient -- she also says wind turbines have scarred the landscape of the traditional French countryside -- so she wants to scrap subsidies for both. Macron wants to further invest in both technologies.
Journalist Camille Knight contributed to this post
1:43 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022
Anti-Islam narratives during the campaign have left many Muslims in France feeling marginalized
From CNN's Joseph Ataman in Paris
Hiba Latreche took a last gulp of water and reached for a date, her eyes flitting between the plates of food before her and her phone screen as it blinked toward 5:42 a.m., the beginning of her fast.
This year, the month of Ramadan coincides with the presidential elections in France, the climax of a campaign that has been marked by anti-Muslim vitriol on a scale not seen for decades.
As France went to the polls for the presidential runoff on Sunday, many French Muslims like Latreche were facing a difficult question: Do these would-be presidents really represent my interests?
Considering the candidates who entered the race, the answer for many is no.
Read more about what French Muslims think of the election here:
Marine Le Pen has tried to refashion her image since losing in 2017
From CNN's Joshua Berlinger in Paris
Marine Le Pen is hardly the same candidate who lost to Emmanuel Macron in 2017 by nearly two votes to one.
In the weeks leading up to the first round of the election on April 10, Le Pen campaigned hard on pocketbook issues, often beginning interviews and media appearances by explaining to voters how she would help them cope with inflation and rising fuel prices, top issues for the French public.
The strategy appears to have worked. Le Pen polled far better in the 2022 first round than she did five years ago, and polls conducted before this weekend showed a close race.
Though Le Pen has sought to broaden her appeal, her economic nationalist stance, views on immigration, Euroskepticism and positions on Islam in France -- she wants to make it illegal for Muslim women to wear headscarves in public -- remain unchanged.
Election night rally at Champs de Mars, a dream-come-true moment for Macron’s campaign
From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris
In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, supporters of Emmanuel Macron are gathering at Champs de Mars for the incumbent French President's election night rally.
Hosting the rally at this scenic location in the French capital is a dream-come-true moment for Macron’s team. They tried to do it for his first election runoff in 2017 but the City of Paris rejected their request because it was preparing to welcome an inspection group from the International Olympic Committee in its bid to host the 2024 Olympics, a spokesperson from the city government told CNN.
French voters will decide whether Macron will speak as the first French president since 2002 to win a second term, or as the first mainstream candidate to be defeated by a far-right challenger.
1:12 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022
Turnout low as France votes to elect its president
From CNN’s Joseph Ataman, Camille Knight, Simon Bouvier and Xiaofei Xu in Paris
Turnout in the second round of the French presidential election is low as of late-afternoon in France, according to official figures released Sunday afternoon.
At 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET), voter turnout was at 63.23%, the lowest since 2002, according to data published by the French interior ministry.
Data shows 65.3% of French voters had cast their ballots by 11 a.m. ET in the second round of the 2017 presidential elections, when Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen to become France’s youngest ever president.
Polling stations in most of metropolitan France will close at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), while those in major urban centers such as Paris, Marseille and Lyon will close at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET).
1:10 p.m. ET, April 24, 2022
Four charts that explain how round one of the presidential election played out
Today is the second time French voters have headed to the polls to choose their president this month. Twelve candidates stood in the initial contest on April 10, but since none won more than 50% of the vote, the top two -- Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen -- advanced to the runoff two weeks later.
Though Le Pen came in second, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far left came a close third. No other candidate finished in double digits.
Data from each of France's nearly 35,000 communes show Melenchon performed particularly well in places like Paris' working-class suburbs, while Le Pen won the traditional right-leaning strongholds like the northeast and southeast. Macron performed well in cities and in the historically left-leaning west.
The strong performance of these three candidates underscores just how much French politics has changed since Macron won the presidency in 2017.
His centrist political party has siphoned votes from the traditional center-left and center-right parties, while candidates like Melenchon and Le Pen have successfully wooed voters who are frustrated and angry with mainstream politicians. Far-left and far-right candidates accounted for more than 57% of the ballots cast in the first round.
Other dissatisfied voters simply stayed home this time around. Turnout in round one was the lowest the country has seen in 20 years.