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French Election: Macron's Victory Hailed — and Decried — as Boost for United Europe

The head of the European Commission said he was "delighted" by Emmanuel Macron's election, but Nigel Farage called it "a giant deceit."
Image: Macron campaign victim of hacking
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron campaigns in Paris last month.YOAN VALAT / EPA

Emmanuel Macron's election Sunday as the next president of France marks the third time in four months that European voters have declined to follow the United States in electing a populist anti-immigration leader, a development that mainstream European leaders found heartening.

Macron, 39, a centrist newcomer to national politics, convincingly defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday's second round of voting, the Interior Ministry said.

Leaders and political figures across Europe welcomed — or denounced — the results as an endorsement of a united Europe, similar to the victories of moderate Alexander Van der Bellen over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer in Austria in December and of Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy over anti-Islam nationalist Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom in the Netherlands in March.

Related: Now That He's Won, Find Out About the Man Who Slew France's Far Right

Macron's victory confirms France's "attachment to the European Union, as well as to the openness of France to the world," outgoing French President Francois Hollande said.

"The biggest stake is that of bringing together and building so as to follow France's path toward progress and social justice," Hollande said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Macron on his victory and his "advocacy in the election campaign for a united and cosmopolitan European Union."

"The decision of the French voters is thus also a clear commitment to Europe," Merkel said, according to her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

Seibert separately tweeted that Macron's election "is a victory for a strong United Europe and for the Franco-German friendship."

Likewise, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said in a statement that he was "delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency in the debate about the history of Europe."

But Euroskeptics expressed dismay over Macron's victory — for the same reasons.

"Millions of patriots voted for you!" Wilders tweeted. "You will win next time — and so will I!"

Nigel Farage, a prominent leader of Britain's successful "Brexit" campaign to leave the European Union, said on Twitter that "a giant deceit has been voted for today," adding, "Macron will be Juncker's puppet."

Guy Sorman, publisher of the journal France Amerique, noted that Le Pen's National Front turned in a record performance — a warning that anti-immigrant nationalism remains vital in Europe.

"The opposition is very strong, and the opposition is now not the left or the right — the opposition is a populist, nativist party," Sorman told MSNBC.

"For the first time in French history, they reached more than one-third of the vote, so this is new and extremely significant," Sorman said. "And if Macron as president doesn't prove able to deliver, well, Madame Le Pen's party will grow and grow and could seize power some day."

Sorman said supporters of Le Pen and U.S. President Donald Trump "look alike. They are disenfranchised people, and they are rather poor, and when you look at the map of the electorate of Trump and the electorate of Madame Le Pen, they are very similar."

He added, "They are voting now for populist, nativist parties because nobody is taking care of them and nobody is offering a solution to them."