Le Pen claims 'massive' gains but says party needs major change

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The prospect of a Le Pen victory had prompted serious concerns about a global right-wing, nationalist resurgence that brought Trump to power and saw Britain vote to leave the European Union past year.

But with their hopes proving a reality, the supporters of 39-year-old Macron can now look to a future under the guidance of France's youngest president in modern times. Her deputy said the party would get a new name.

By contrast, Jacques Chirac was elected against Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, with 82.21 percent in 2002, amid a 20.29 percent abstention rate.

Many Americans were also jaded after the shocking results of their own presidential election last November, and withheld their excitement until the votes were finally in.

Florian Philippot, the party's influential Vice President and architect of its anti-EU policy, said the National Front was bound to rename itself to reflect its ambition of gathering support beyond the party faithful.

Mr Macron said he understood that some voters backed him reluctantly, simply to keep out Ms Le Pen and her party, which has a long history of anti-Semitism and racism.

But neither Le Pen nor her chief political adviser addressed the causes of Sunday's result which many, including her popular niece Marion Maréchal Le Pen, will find deeply disappointing.

Le Pen's National Front won 35 per cent of the vote, almost double what her father Jean-Marie secured in 2002, a result which hit the nation like an natural disaster at the time, triggering a broad "Republican front" to block him.

According to party insiders, there were problems in the campaign.

Supporters of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron celebrate his victory on Sunday outside The Louvre in Paris France
Supporters of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron celebrate his victory on Sunday outside The Louvre in Paris France

The runoff election in which Macron is competing against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is being conducted under the watch of 50,000 security forces guarding against extremist attacks.

"The debate was fatal for her", said the operator of one popular pro-Le Pen Twitter account.

Le Pen also missed a chance to broaden her appeal by winning over disappointed conservative voters, who were furious over the exit of their candidate, former Prime Minister François Fillon, in the first round.

The election has seen a remarkable shift in French politics, with the traditional centre-right and centre-left parties falling at the first round for the first time since the founding of the Fifth Republic by Charles de Gaulle in 1958. "I'm sure it wouldn't be anything like that if Le Pen had won".

She was able to vote without any incident after feminist activists were briefly detained a couple of hours earlier Sunday for hanging a big anti-Le Pen banner from a church.

Some senior aides are known to be opposed to the Euroskeptic position.

European Council President Donald Tusk also congratulated Macron, saying the French have chosen "liberty, equality, and fraternity". National Assembly elections in June could usher in Washington-like legislative paralysis.

After Sunday, the voices of Bay, Collard and Marion Le Pen will be heard more clearly in the National Front. Le Pen is unlikely to depart as party leader, despite stepping down temporarily as its president during the campaign.

But Le Pen will have no choice but to listen to critiques and start working on her next move.

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