PARIS The formal handing over of power to Emmanuel Macron will take place on May 14, according to outgoing French Socialist President Francois Hollande. Macron’s election in France’s presidential runoff election over the weekend means France will intensify its commitment to staying in the European Union. Macron defeated Marine Le Pen, a right-leaning nationalist candidate who opposed France in the EU, by 66 percent to 34 on a platform of market-friendly reform and closer European integration.However, an abstention rate of more than 25 percent, and the fact that more than 11 percent of those who turned out chose neither candidate, pointed to a high degree of disillusionment with the choices in the runoff.Police say 141 people were arrested in Paris after trouble flared overnight following Macron’s victory. Those detained in Menilmontant, a northeastern district of Paris, were accused of offenses ranging from throwing items at the police to damaging property. The demonstrators were protesting both against Macron criticized by many on France’s far left as a member of a discredited elite in thrall to global capitalism and against Le Pen. The leftist CGT labor union also held a demonstration in the capital Monday against the kind of liberal economic policies that Macron espouses.The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, brought relief to European Union supporters who had feared French voters would follow world trends of recent change in Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president. Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front underlining the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal. Despite having served briefly in Hollande’s deeply unpopular Socialist government, Macron managed in the election to portray himself as the man to revive France’s fortunes by recasting a political landscape molded by the left-right divisions of the past century.”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.” Later he 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 program.Outgoing Hollande, who brought Macron into politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union.” Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told Macron: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency.” Macron spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he hopes to revitalize the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU, saying he planned to visit Berlin shortly. Trump tweeted his congratulations on Macron’s “big win,” saying he looked forward to working with him. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was willing to help push Sino-French ties to a higher level, according to state news agency Xinhua. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also congratulated Macron. Macron will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. A 39-year-old former investment banker, Macron served for two years as economy minister under Hollande but has never previously held elected office. Le Pen, 48, said she had also offered her congratulations. But she defiantly claimed the mantle of France’s main opposition in calling on “all patriots to join us” in constituting a “new political force.” Her tally was almost double the score that her father Jean-Marie, the last far-right candidate to make the presidential runoff, achieved in 2002, when he was defeated by the conservative Jacques Chirac. Her anti-globalization “France-first” policies appealed to many poorer members of society against a background of high unemployment, social tensions and security concerns.”Now, all the anxieties expressed at the ballot by a part of the electorate must be heard,” said France’s biggest labor union, the CFDT in a statement. “The feeling of being disenfranchised, of injustice, and even abandonment is present among a large number of our citizens.”Reuters News Service contributed to this report.
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