PARIS: Thousands of flag-waving supporters gave Emmanuel Macron a rapturous welcome Sunday as he strode into the courtyard of the Louvre museum to the strains of the European anthem after his decisive election victory.
The glass pyramid in the world-famous courtyard glowed golden as 39-year-old Macron made a solitary walk to a stage in front, looking solemn.
“Tonight, France won,” the pro-EU centrist, who will become the nation’s youngest ever president cried to the crowds, who yelled with joy.
“Everyone told us it was impossible, but they don’t know France,” he said, before vowing: “I will serve you with love.”
The rousing speech lasted just a few minutes before Macron’s wife Brigitte, 64, and around 20 people including family members joined him onstage.
The new leader then clasped his hand to his heart and closed his eyes as he sang along to the French anthem, the Marseillaise.
Many of the mainly youthful supporters were wearing the T-shirt of Macron’s centrist movement En Marche (“On the Move”), set up just a year ago.
Some supporters scaled lampposts to get a better view of Macron, who was savouring a thumping victory estimated at around 65 to 35 percent over far-right rival Marine Le Pen.
An instant street party had erupted outside the Louvre after the results were announced. Cars honked as passengers waved French flags, while the crowds chanted “President Macron, President Macron!” from the pavements.
Street vendors wheeled carts with sausages and cold drinks toward the crowds, with some vendors selling French and EU flags.
‘Symbol of hope’
Shouts of joy had erupted earlier as giant screens on either side of the pyramid flashed up the result.
“He’s a symbol of hope,” said Jean-Luc Songtia, 36. “It’s like Obama eight years ago. It’s youth, it’s hope.”
Under tight security, hundreds of the some 1,800 journalists accredited for the event were still trying to get into the grounds when Macron’s victory was announced.
“We’ve won!” the crowd chanted as if at a football match following Macron’s win.
“He killed her, that’s all there is to it,” said 31-year-old Abdel Oukil. “I was convinced she would score over 40 percent.”
Fabien Colonna, 29, said he was relieved by the decisive margin, saying “if it was less it would have been dicey,” after a bruising campaign that exposed France’s deep economic and social divisions.
The high abstention rate of around 25 percent worried Sylvie Semet, 58, who said it meant “that people don’t feel they are represented, they feel forgotten”.
She added: “Macron had better work hard, because people are ready to pounce.”
Macron addressed the crowds after delivering a solemn five-minute televised address from his party headquarters in which he vowed to heal the “divisions that have undermined France.”
The sobriety of that speech was in contrast to Macron’s exuberance after the April 23 first round of the election, when he qualified alongside Le Pen for Sunday’s run-off.
He drew criticism for what some saw as a triumphalist speech and then a celebratory dinner at a Paris bistro, with one prominent critic saying that he had been “smug.” AFP