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France's Macron looks to future after election win


Emmanuel Macron and Francois Hollande attend a ceremony to mark the end of the Second World War (Philippe Wojazer, Pool via AP)

Emmanuel Macron and Francois Hollande attend a ceremony to mark the end of the Second World War (Philippe Wojazer, Pool via AP)

Emmanuel Macron and Francois Hollande attend a ceremony to mark the end of the Second World War (Philippe Wojazer, Pool via AP)

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron has laid the groundwork for his transition to power, announcing a visit to Germany and a name change for his political movement.

He also appeared with President Francois Hollande at a solemn Second World War commemoration.

Mr Macron defeated far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential run-off and must now pull together a majority of politicians in the mid-June legislative election.

The task, though, may prove tricky for a president who had never run for a political office before and for his fledgling political movement La Republique En Marche (Republic On the Move).

Mr Macron is the first president of modern France elected as an independent.

His party, previously known as a movement called simply En Marche, is preparing a list of candidates for next month's parliamentary election.

Mr Macron has promised that half of those candidates will be new to elected politics, as he was before his victory on Sunday.

Many voters who had supported other candidates in the election's first round reluctantly cast run-off ballots for Mr Macron only to prevent Ms Le Pen from entering the Elysee Palace.

His rivals will now be motivated to keep Mr Macron from making further gains during the two-round parliamentary election. All 577 seats in the National Assembly are up for grabs.

Mr Macron has said he is aiming to secure an absolute majority in the lower chamber through the June 11 and 18 elections.

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If he does, he would be able to pick the candidate of his choice to lead the government as prime minister.

But if another party wins a majority, the new president could be pressured to choose a prime minister from that party, a situation the French call "cohabitation".

The last time France had "cohabitation" was between 1997-2002 under President Jacques Chirac, who described the set-up as a state of "paralysis".

If Mr Macron's party performs poorly, he could also be forced to form a coalition government, a regular occurrence in many European countries but far less common in France.

In a poll, 59% of Macron voters said they supported him primarily to keep Ms Le Pen from becoming president.

Ms Le Pen says she will lead the opposition to Mr Macron.

Mr Macron won the presidency with 66% of the votes cast for a candidate, but the election also had a high number of blank or spoiled votes and an unusually low turnout.

Monday was a French national holiday marking decades of peace in Western Europe, something Mr Macron made a cornerstone of his campaign against Ms Le Pen's brand of nationalist populism.

Mr Macron joined Mr Hollande in a commemoration of the formal German defeat in the Second World War.

It was the first time the men had appeared in public together since Mr Macron resigned in August 2016 as Mr Hollande's economy minister to run for president - a decision that was received coldly by the French leader at the time.

On Monday, though, Mr Hollande gripped Mr Macron's arm before the two men walked side by side and then announced the transfer of power would take place on Sunday.

Ms Le Pen had called for France to leave the European Union and drop the shared euro currency in favour of reinstating the French franc.

After her decisive loss, the National Front also geared up for a name change - if not a makeover of its ideas.

In interviews on Monday, National Front officials said the party founded by her father would get a new name to try to draw in a broader spectrum of supporters.

"The National Front is a tool that will evolve to be more efficient, bring even more people together after the number of voters we reached last night. And so we have an immense responsibility vis-a-vis the French people, who trust us," said Nicolas Bay, the party's secretary-general.

Sylvie Goulard, a French deputy to the European Parliament, said Mr Macron would make Berlin his first official visit, with perhaps a stop to see French troops stationed abroad as well.

Leaders in Germany and Britain praised Mr Macron's victory, but viewed it through their own electoral challenges.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed his win, but appeared cautious about proposals to support his economic plans either by relaxing European spending rules or with a dedicated stimulus fund.

"German support can't replace French policies," she said.

In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Macron's election makes it even more important for British voters to back her Conservatives and strengthen Britain's hand in EU exit talks.

Mrs May has called an early election for June 8, arguing that her Conservatives need a bigger majority in order to stand firm against - and strike deals with - the EU.

On the financial front, European stock markets edged down in early trading as investors had been widely expecting Mr Macron's victory.

Though Mr Macron's victory is considered positive for the region's economy and the euro currency, stocks had risen strongly in the previous two weeks on expectations of his win.

France's CAC 40 index, which last week touched the highest level since early 2008, slipped 1% on Monday.

The euro, which had risen on Sunday night to a six-month high against the dollar, edged back down 0.5% to 1.0946 dollars.


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