France turns to parliamentary battle after Emmanuel Macron victory

Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron resoundingly won France's landmark presidential election on Sunday, first estimates showed, defeating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a pivotal vote for the future of the divided country and Europe.

The 39-year-old centrist's victory over far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in Sunday's election came as a huge relief to European Union allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain's vote last year to leave the EU and Donald Trump's election as US president.

En Marche will announce its candidates for the legislative elections on Thursday.

Although every recent French presidential election has been followed by the winner's party going on to take control of parliament, the outcome this time around has been made murky by Macron's lack of an established base. Mr Valls is planning to run in the Essonne department, his fiefdom south of Paris, but Republic on the Move officials said his nomination will not be automatic. "His voice is not insignificant, but his candidacy will be treated as anyone else's".

The abstention rate was 25.44 percent compared with a rate of 22.23 percent during the first round of the election on April 23.

Even Bill English, who a year ago would never have thought he'd be leading this country now, has reflected on the French election saying we approached the uncertainty around the world with naive kiwi optimism, that the world wasn't going to turn inward and protectionist, or xenophobic. The poor result has triggered a fierce debate within the Socialists about whether to stick with Hamon's left-wing platform or to switch back to the more centrist views of Valls and his allies.

However, a senior Republican, Christian Estrosi, who had backed Macron and been rumored to rally behind him, said on Monday he had turned down a ministerial post in order to focus on his home city of Nice. "It is behind us", he said. "I want it to be one of hope and renewed confidence", Macron told AFP in a call shortly after results were released.

One of Macron's immediate tasks will be to name his prime minister who will govern between now and the parliamentary elections on June 11 and 18, and perhaps beyond.

Many analysts are sceptical about Macron's ability to win a majority with En Marche candidates alone, meaning he might have to form a coalition of lawmakers committed to his agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who Le Pen derisively said last week would be France's de facto leader under a Macron presidency, welcomed his win but appeared cautious about proposals to support his economic plans either by relaxing European spending rules or with a dedicated stimulus fund.

Vanessa Coleman

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