Vive la France! Emmanuel Macron sweeps aside far-right Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The populist right has been dealt a heavy blow after Marine Le Pen was defeated in the French election.

Emmanuel Macron looks set to become France's next president after exit polls gave him a strong lead over Le Pen.

Polling agencies project the 39-year-old political novice has won 65% of the vote, with Le Pen trailing on 35%.

Le Pen has already conceded in a phone call to Macron.

But Le Pen's showing will still be stronger than her National Front party has seen in its 45-year history.

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Macron would become the youngest French president ever, putting him at the helm of one of the world's biggest economies.

But Le Pen's projected showing, unusually low turnout and the record number of blank ballots are an indication of the headwinds facing Macron, a former economy minister who started his own political movement only a year.

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In a speech immediately after the exit poll projections were announced, Le Pen said she had already called her rival to congratulate him on his victory.

Macron's supporters have been pouring into the courtyard outside the Louvre museum in Paris, where he plans to celebrate.

Le Pen said she would call for a new political force as legislative elections loom in June.

She also hinted her party may rename itself from the National Front, which has been dogged by allegations of racism and anti-Semitism since it was founded by her father.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the vote 'testifies to the lucidity of the voters who rejected the deadly project of the extreme right'.

He added it shows voters have embraced the European Union.

A Macron victory marks the third time in six months - following elections in Austria and Holland - that European voters have shot down far-right populists who want to restore borders across Europe.

Victory for Macron, who had championed European unity, could also strengthen the EU's hand in its complex divorce proceedings with Britain. The unofficial Leave campaign headed up by Arron Banks and Nigel Farage, LEAVE.EU, tweeted 'RIP France'.

Outgoing president Francois Hollande congratulated Macron and said his victory shows the overwhelming majority of voters rallied behind the European Union and openness to the world.

It was Hollande who first brought Macron into the world of politics, naming the untested ex-banker as economy minister.

But Macron left the position to found his own political movement last year, and has distanced himself from his former mentor.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff Peter Altmaier congratulated Macron with a tweet saying: 'Long live France, long live Europe!'

Her chief spokesman Steffen Seibert said it is a victory 'for a strong and united Europe'.

Outside the Louvre, Macron's jubilant supporters sang 'We have won, we have won' while waving French flags as they waited for their new president to arrive.

Many expressed their relief that Le Pen had suffered a clear defeat.

Sandra Ledoux, 32, said she is 'very happy because Macron is young, innovative and he has a project to make Europe better instead of destroying it like Le Pen wanted'.

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