Early data also indicated almost 29 per cent of the electorate did not bother to vote in a poll that some voters saw as pitting “the plague against cholera”.
Macron made reference to those who abstained from voting, acknowledging he was “everyone’s president”, before telling those who voted for the “hard-right” he understood their anger.
“I am a warden also of the divisions that were expressed and the differences between us. Every day, every second I shall make sure that I respect everyone. We will continue to work towards a society that is fairer for everyone,” he told the crowd.
French exit polls – which have historically proven accurate because they are based on actual ballot papers rather than solely verbal sampling at polling booths – showed Macron with 58.2 per cent of the vote the moment that voting closed at 8pm local time. However, almost 30 per cent of registered voters did not show up, the most at a presidential election since 1969.
A defiant Le Pen vowed to fight to bring power to the hands of the people, telling a gathering of dejected National Rally supporters that Macron was “destructive” for France.
“I would like to say to all those who wanted to see our party disappear, I would just like to say that I see a new form of hope,” she said.
She said France and Europe had to face “a sense of great mistrust from the people”.
“We can stand up as a power to counterbalance that shown by Emmanuel Macron and his party,” she added to cheers from her supporters.
She said Macron will have to “face up against true opposition because in a few weeks, we will face the legislative elections” in a sign she has no plans to step down as party leader.
Macron, who won against Le Pen with 66 per cent of the vote five years ago, had warned of civil unrest if Le Pen – whose policies include a ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public – is elected and has called on democrats of all stripes to back him.
Le Pen had focused her campaign on the rising cost of living in the world’s seventh-largest economy, which many French say has worsened with the surge in global energy prices. However, her past scepticism of the EU and financial and personal links to Russian president Vladimir Putin had attracted fierce criticism.
European leaders Olaf Scholz, Pedro Sanchez and Antonio Costa published a joint column in the French newspaper Le Monde ahead of the vote, labelling Le Pen as someone sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin and who would undermine the European Union.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter that she looked forward to “continuing our excellent cooperation”.
Scholz, the German Chancellor, who urged French voters to back Mr Macron, said his voters “sent a strong commitment to Europe.”
Opinion polls in recent days gave Macron a solid and slightly growing lead as analysts said Le Pen – despite her efforts to soften her image and tone down some of her National Rally party’s policies – remained unpalatable for many.
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