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Macron Prepares To Lead France As Challenges Loom


Current French President Francois Hollande (second-right) and President-elect Emmanuel Macron (left) take part in a ceremony to mark the end of World War II, in Paris on May 8.

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron on May 8 made his first public appearance after easily defeating nationalist Marine Le Pen a day earlier, joining outgoing President Francois Hollande at a wreath-laying ceremony in Paris as he began preparing his transition to power.

Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, won 66 percent of the vote in the May 7 election, beating Le Pen following a divisive runoff vote between two candidates with diametrically opposed visions for the country's future.

Macron appeared side-by-side with Hollande at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris to commemorate the end of World War II, where Hollande confirmed that his successor would be inaugurated on May 14.

Hollande told reporters following the event that he would offer "any information, any advice, any experience" to Macron, who is set to become the youngest president in the country's history,

"I will always be at his side," Hollande added.

Legislative Elections

Macron's most immediate battle is likely securing a parliamentary majority in upcoming legislative elections in June.

In her concession speech on May 7, Le Pen portrayed her loss as a victory of "globalists" over "patriots" and announced plans to establish a new political association that will take part in the elections.

She vowed "to bring together all those who wish to choose France, to defend its independence, its freedom, its prosperity, its security, its identity and its social model."

"I call on all patriots to join us to take part in the decisive political fight that is starting tonight. More than ever in the forthcoming months France will need you," Le Pen said.

WATCH: Macron Wins French Presidency

Macron, a former economy minister and banker who has never held an elected post, received good news as two opinion polls published after his victory indicated that his year-old political movement, En Marche! (Forward!), would finish first in the legislative elections set for June 11 and June 18.

The polls show En Marche! taking 24-26 percent in the first round, with the right-wing Les Republicains at 22 percent and Le Pen's far-right National Front at 21-22 percent.

Bruising Contest

Macron's presidential victory came after a bruising race marked by negative campaigning and a last-minute hacking attack targeting his campaign.

The victory -- by the second-largest margin in recent French history -- comes as a relief to much of Europe, which had feared another shock result at the ballot box on the heels of Britain's decision to leave the European Union and U.S. President Donald Trump's surprising election win in November.

Amid a sea of red, white, and blue tricolor flags at a victory party outside the iconic Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, Macron said the country was turning a page in its history and pledged to the thousands in attendance to defend France and Europe and "rebuild links between Europe and its citizens."

"We will not give into fear, divisions," he said after arriving while the EU anthem "Ode To Joy" blared through the museum's courtyard.

"I will fight the divisions that undermine France," he added in a nod to the 11 million votes Le Pen received, a record for the far-right leader.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on May 8 that she was "delighted" about Macron's victory and that she had congratulated him the previous night.

"Emmanuel Macron carries the hopes of millions of French people, and of many people in Germany, and the whole of Europe. He conducted a brave, pro-European campaign. He stands for openness to the world," Merkel said in Berlin.

WATCH: Merkel 'Delighted' By Macron's Electoral Victory

Macron, who topped the first round of the election on April 23, campaigned on a pro-EU, pro-business platform, while Le Pen, a staunch anti-immigration candidate, wanted France to leave the 28-nation bloc and abandon the euro currency.

"Happy that the French chose a European future," European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said on Twitter.

Putin 'Ready For Constructive Work'

Trump was among world leaders sending congratulations to Macron, noting his "big win today as the next President of France."

"I look very much forward to working with him," Trump wrote on Twitter on May 7.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters in Washington on May 8 that Trump called Macron earlier in the day to congratulate the French president-elect.

Trump did not endorse any candidate in the election, though many believed he supported Le Pen after comments he made in April in apparent praise of the far-right candidate's tough stance on immigration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Macron that Russia was ready for constructive work on bilateral and global issues, the Kremlin said on May 8.

"The citizens of France have trusted you with leading the country at a difficult time for Europe and the whole world community. The growth in threats of terrorism and militant extremism is accompanied by an escalation of local conflicts and the destabilization of whole regions," Putin said in a congratulatory telegram released by the Kremlin.

"In these conditions it is especially important to overcome mutual mistrust and unite efforts to ensure international stability and security," Putin told Macron.

Despite her defeat in the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has indicated that she will be campaigning again in next month's parliamentary vote.
Despite her defeat in the presidential election, Marine Le Pen has indicated that she will be campaigning again in next month's parliamentary vote.

Since the first round of the election, Macron has accused Russia of meddling in his campaign with cyberattacks and has refused to accredit Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, accusing them of issuing fake news stories.

Moscow has rejected accusations of interfering in the election campaign, as it has rejected similar charges out of Berlin and Washington.

On May 5, Macron's campaign said it had been the victim of a "massive" computer hack that dumped its campaign emails.It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the hack.

Le Pen, who met with Putin in Moscow in March, has called for the lifting of EU sanctions against Russia, imposed over its illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Macron's foreign policy is expected to largely follow the course set by Hollande, a Socialist under whom Macron served as economy minister from 2014-16.

Macron was endorsed by the overwhelming majority of French politicians, many European leaders, and by former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The French president is elected to a five-year term.

With reporting by Current Time TV's Yevhenia Rudenko, Reuters, AFP, AP, and the BBC
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