A 39-year-old former banker with zero political experience just made a whole lot of European leaders really happy.
Emmanuel Macron, a young, centrist, pro–European Union candidate, just came out on top in the first round of voting in the French presidential elections, winning 23.7 percent of the vote, according to exit polls. He was followed closely by far-right populist Marine Le Pen, who pulled in 21.7 percent. The two of them will now face off in a runoff election on May 7, and polls show Macron with a solid chance of winning.
That’s good news for European leaders who have been wringing their hands for months over the possibility of a Trump-like upset by Le Pen, who has pledged to pull France out of the EU, the eurozone common currency market, and maybe even NATO; reimpose strong national borders; and severely curtail immigration. She has also indicated she believes strict adherence to Islam is incompatible with French values.
Many on the left in America were pulling for a Macron win as well — in fact, just three days before the vote, former President Barack Obama telephoned Macron personally to wish him good luck in the race.
After the preliminary results were announced Sunday evening, European leaders were quick to express cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe, the future of the European Union might remain more or less intact for the foreseeable future.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted: “To see the flags of #France and the EU greet the result of @emmanuelmacron, it's the hope and future of our generation.”
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tweeted his congratulations to Macron, proclaiming, “Long live France, long live Europe!”
Denmark’s prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, was tentatively enthusiastic and wished Macron good luck in the runoff election:
Congratulations @EmmanuelMacron. We should await the final election, but Europe needs an openminded and reformoriented France => Good luck!— Lars Løkke Rasmussen (@larsloekke) April 23, 2017
Michel Barnier, the EU Commission’s chief negotiator on Brexit, was a little less guarded with his enthusiasm, proclaiming his confidence in a Macron victory on May 7 and exclaiming, “France must remain European!”
Patriote et européen, je ferai confiance le 7 mai à Emmanuel Macron. La France doit rester européenne !— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) April 23, 2017
A spokesperson for German chancellor Angela Merkel tweeted, “Good that @EmmanuelMacron succeeded with his policy for a strong EU and social market economy. Wishing him all the best for the next two weeks," per Reuters.
Dutch far-right populist Geert Wilders, whose anti-immigrant, anti-Islam views align closely with Le Pen’s, was also in a celebratory mood, but over Le Pen’s success in making it to the next round, not Macron’s:
Congratulations sent to Marine Le Pen.— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) April 23, 2017
A day of celebration for all Patriots in Europe.
On to the 2nd round and the Presidency! pic.twitter.com/bpZoKU2xvZ
President Trump, who all but endorsed Le Pen just days before the vote, has been uncharacteristically silent on the matter, choosing instead to tweet about — wait for it — his own electoral victory over Hillary Clinton:
New polls out today are very good considering that much of the media is FAKE and almost always negative. Would still beat Hillary in .....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017
...popular vote. ABC News/Washington Post Poll (wrong big on election) said almost all stand by their vote on me & 53% said strong leader.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017