It was striking.
One French voter after another we interviewed ahead of Sunday’s presidential election told us: “I’ll vote Macron but only to keep Le Pen out.”
A concerted public effort to keep a far-right, or right-wing nationalist, candidate from becoming president is nothing new in France.
But the emerging breakdown of Sunday’s vote must give Emmanuel Macron pause for thought.
Add those reluctant voters of his to the 40% that voted for Marine Le Pen, plus the millions who spoiled their ballot or refused to vote at all, and Macron’s “Pour Tous” (For Everyone) campaign slogan starts to look very hollow indeed.
In his victory speech, held in front of the backdrop of the French flag and the Eiffel Tower, an unusually humble-sounding Macron admitted that his was a divided country, and that he’d do his best to heal those divisions.
That won’t be easy. And he knows it.
The first looming challenge will be to garner a healthy majority in parliamentary elections next month.
France isn’t only fragmented across party lines, it is polarised between wealthy urban centres (particularly Paris) and forgotten towns and villages; between nationalists and internationalists; between the wealthy, the poor and the marginalised.
French election result: Macron defeats Le Pen and vows to unite divided France
By Paul Kirby
Emmanuel Macron has won five more years as France’s president after a convincing victory over rival Marine Le Pen, who nevertheless secured the far right’s highest share of the vote yet.
He won by 58.55% to 41.45%, a greater margin than expected.
The centrist leader told jubilant supporters at the foot of the Eiffel Tower that now the election was over he would be a “president for all”.
He is the first sitting president in 20 years to be re-elected.
Despite her loss, Ms Le Pen, 53, said her significant vote share still marked a victory.
The ideas her National Rally represented had reached new heights, she told her supporters. But far-right rival Eric Zemmour pointed out that she had ultimately failed, just like her father who preceded her: “It’s the eighth time the Le Pen name has been hit by defeat.”
Marine Le Pen took over the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 in a bid to make it electable. She won more than 13 million votes on Sunday, on a platform of tax cuts to tackle the high cost of living, a ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf in public and a referendum on immigration controls.