Emmanuel Macron will serve a second term as the president of France – the first person to do so since 2002.
His victory over right-wing rival Marine Le Pen by a relatively comfortable margin of 58.5% to 41.5% will be met with a huge sigh of relief in the capital cities of France’s most prominent allies – most notably in Brussels, home of the European Union and NATO.
While Macron was always the favorite to win this race, the Russian invasion of Ukraine for many highlighted the need for Western unity in the face of aggression from a belligerent who seeks to undermine it. Among NATO allies and the EU, that unity has more or less stuck during the crisis, but officials feared a Le Pen victory could rock the trans-Atlantic relationship.
Le Pen could almost be purpose built as someone leaders of the Western alliance would least like running a country as important as France.
France is a member of NATO, the EU and the G7. It has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and is a nuclear power. Yet despite its deep embedment in these pillars of the Western order, France also historically favors an autonomous foreign policy, meaning it can act as a broker between the US-led Western order and nations like Iran, China and Russia.
Le Pen’s previous ties to Russia, unenthusiastic view of NATO and hostile view of the EU meant that her victory would have rattled cages around the world.
However, if the projections are correct, the scale of Macron’s victory tonight will mean celebrations are cut short for many French allies. Far from Macron’s impressive 2017 victory, where he defeated Le Pen comfortably with 66% of the vote, that margin is now much smaller.
For all that defeating the far-right for the second time is a great victory for Macron, France’s allies will be very awake to the fact that nearly 42% of French voters supported someone who stands against so much of what they are for.
Vision of European unity
Nowhere will this be felt more acutely than among the leadership of NATO and the EU.
For NATO, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been the first real test of the alliance’s unity in years. While eyebrows were raised at some of the decisions taken by Macron during the crisis, NATO has largely been on the same page.
Based on Le Pen’s previous relationship with Putin and disdain for NATO, very few thought this wouldn’t create a problem not just in NATO, but also at the UN Security Council.
It’s also worth noting that while Putin might not have got his preferred candidate into the Elysee, Le Pen will remain an influential figure in France who enjoys a huge amount of support. While her loss means a continuation of France’s most hostile policy towards Putin’s invasion, Russia still has a valuable disruptor in a key European country who will likely continue to drive divides in France and beyond.