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French President Macron is staying in power with Sunday's win

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election tonight with an estimated 58% of the vote. That's higher than expected but a slimmer margin than the last time he faced off against Marine Le Pen and her far-right party. We're going to go now to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, who's been following events and was at Macron's victory celebration. Eleanor, thanks so much for being here.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Great to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: As we said that these results are better than had been predicted for Macron. What's the mood there in Paris?

BEARDSLEY: Well, I would say joy and relief. You know, they have this funny tradition here in France that they announce the winner on the nightly news at exactly 8:00. And there's this countdown, and then the winner's face pops up on the TV screen. So I was under the Eiffel Tower where Macron supporters and his campaign were, and there were giant TV screens everywhere, people waving flags - thousands of people - and everyone just kind of counted down together. And let me let you hear some of that sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking French).

(CHEERING)

BEARDSLEY: So then everyone just exploded in joy as Macron's face popped up, you know, with 58.2% next to it, compared with Le Pen's roughly 42%. People were happy but also very relieved because this was a hard-fought race, and Marine Le Pen brought her far-right party closer than it's ever been to taking power.

MARTIN: Yes. And as you were telling us, the margin is slimmer than the last time he beat her five years ago with 10 more points. I mean, that was 66% of the vote. What's changed?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, this year there wasn't as much enthusiasm for him. He wasn't this new maverick politician anymore. He has many detractors. Working-class and left-wing voters feel particularly betrayed by him. And she's changed her image. She's moderated her tone. She's drawn new crowds. Here she is in her concession speech tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MARINE LA PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She called it a stunning victory because her party actually got more than 42% of the vote. And it is huge for her. The populist right has never been so popular. And many people who voted for Macron today actually voted against her to try to block her. And his supporters know that.

MARTIN: So does this suggest that Macron will have to change? I mean, how is he going to govern this time around?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah. I mean, he's been accused of being just arrogant and aloof and just like a king, you know? And analysts say his mandate and his legitimacy are a lot weaker this time around. And he's going to have to govern differently in consultation, you know, not alone from high up. He's going to have to compromise. And, you know, many analysts say he's not really good at that. Macron came on stage tonight under the Eiffel Tower, and here he is speaking to the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: So he acknowledged. He said, I know that many of you here tonight did not vote for me and my ideas, but you just did it to block the far right. So I think he knows that things are different this time around, and people are hoping that he might be a little more humble. So we'll see.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Eleanor Beardsley from Paris. Eleanor, thank you so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.