French election: Emmanuel Macron defeats Marine Le Pen
EMMANUEL Macron has won the French presidential election campaign, securing a five-year term in the Elysee Palace and guaranteeing France's future in the European Union.
The 39-year-old leftist independent defeated his hard-right rival Marine Le Pen in the most volatile and bitterly-fought presidential election since the end of World War II.
Thousands of rapturous supporters celebrated outside the famed Louvre art gallery on the banks of the river Seine in central Paris, cheering and waving the French tricolour flag.
Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux, 64, are due to appear at the Louvre in about an hour.
His next challenge comes in the parliamentary elections next month, as Macron's political movement, En Marche! (Onwards!) is not yet a political party and does not have any sitting MPs.
A Republican plot to form a government without him would render him a lame duck at the start of his five-year term.
The two-round presidential election campaign was wracked by financial scandal, egg-throwing, cyber-hacking and was overshadowed by a persistent threat from Islamist terrorism.
Mainstream politics was turned on its head, with neither the main parties, the Republicans and the Socialists, getting a candidate through to the final round for the first time since the 1950s.
For some, it was a contest between the least worst of the candidates, with many voters choosing to abstain or lodge a "vote blanc'' or white vote, nominating no candidate.
But in the end, the voters went for the pro-European leftist candidate, who pitched for the centre as well as the left with promises of better funding for schools and employment programs, and promised to remain in the EU.
By contrast, Le Pen, whose National Front campaigned against open borders, wanted a ban on mass Muslim migration, and flip-flopped on whether to abolish the euro currency and revert to the franc.
In urban Paris, it was almost impossible to find anyone who voted for Le Pen, although some who voted for Macron held their noses while they did so.
In the town hall in the chic 6th arrondissement on the Left Bank, couple Alexandra M. and Thiago A. voted reluctantly for Macron.
"I pretty much hate Macron but I hate Le Pen more," Thiago told News Corp. "I would have voted for Melenchon."
Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon came fourth in the first round and was knocked out, with 19.6 per cent of the vote. His supporters were urged to cast "not one vote" for Le Pen, but Melenchon stopped short of endorsing Macron.
Alexandra said she too would have voted for Melenchon.
"There are two choices, and not the ones I would have liked as president," she said. "Between the both of them, I don't want Marine Le Pen."
Married couple Christine and Jean-Loup also voted Macron, but he wouldn't have been their first choice.
Christine said she had supported Republican Alaine Juppe during the primaries, but could not bring herself to vote for the eventual Republican candidate, Francois Fillon, in the first round.
A poster of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron appears in Paris. Picture: Andrew McLeish
"I didn't want Fillon to be the candidate of the Right, so I voted Macron.''
Jean-Loup said they would have preferred a centre-right candidate.
"But he's good, Macron, young, enlightened, and within six months he has gone from nothing to being president. He should be able to do something in the next five years.''
In the 3rd arrondissement on the Right Bank, Barbara voted enthusiastically for Macron, saying it was "out of the question" to vote for Le Pen.
"She is a fascist," she said. "I hope very much he wins, I feel very strongly about it."
Morgane R also voted for Macron because she "doesn't want a fascist party to take over the French Government."
"I am a bit worried - I never thought an extremist party would get through to the last round."