Macron becomes France’s youngest president

PARIS (AP) — French President-elect Emmanuel Macron laid the groundwork Monday for his transition to power, announcing a visit to Germany and a name change for his political movement and appearing with his predecessor at a solemn World War II commemoration.

Macron handily defeated far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential runoff, and now must pull together a majority of lawmakers for his year-old political movement to run in the mid-June legislative election.

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

Macron’s party is changing its name to La Republique En Marche (Republic on the Move) as it prepares a list of candidates. Macron has promised that half of those candidates will be new to elected politics, as he was before his victory on Sunday.

Macron won the presidency with 66 percent of votes cast for a candidate but the vote saw a high number of blank or spoiled votes and unusually low turnout.

Le Pen says she will lead the opposition to Macron.

On Monday, a French national holiday, Macron joined President Francois Hollande in a commemoration of the formal German defeat in World War II.

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

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

Monday also marked decades of peace in Western Europe, something Macron made a cornerstone of his campaign against Le Pen’s brand of nationalist populism. Le Pen had called for France to leave the 28-nation European Union and drop the shared euro currency in favor of reinstating the French franc.

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

The National Front also geared up for a name change — if not a makeover of its ideas — after Le Pen’s decisive loss. In interviews Monday, National Front officials said the party founded by her father would get a new name to try and 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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Le Pen derisively said last week would be France’s de facto leader under a Macron presidency, 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 Macron’s win makes it even more important for British voters to back her Conservatives and strengthen Britain’s hand in EU exit talks. 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.

May says Macron “was elected with a strong mandate, which he can take with him as a strong position in the (Brexit) negotiations.”

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

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

PARIS (AP) — It will be a short honeymoon for French President-elect Emmanuel Macron.

France’s youngest president, who takes office Sunday, faces the daunting task of reuniting a troubled, divided nation riven by anxieties about terrorism, chronic unemployment, immigration and France’s relationship with the rest of Europe.

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DIVIDED FRANCE

Unions held protests Monday in Paris’ Place de la Republique against Macron, a pro-business centrist and former Socialist economy minister who they consider as a traitor for allegedly threatening worker protections with economic reforms.

In the Paris metro, an advertisement was defaced with the words: “Macron: Not even started, already hated.”

It’s nothing new. Violent protests, egg-throwing and heckling disrupted the campaigns of both the president-elect and his defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Those who couldn’t stomach either candidate in the presidential runoff protested with slogans reading: “Neither Fatherland, Nor Boss.”

The French are worried about the cultural, economic and religious impact of immigration and fear France’s ability to compete against giants like China and Google.

But the campaign’s nastiness turned voters off both the candidates and their proposed remedies. The runoff Sunday saw a sharp spike in voters who abstained or handed in blank or spoiled ballots — representing a third of the electorate.

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THE JUNE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

In order to govern properly, Macron’s fledgling political movement La Republique En Marche (Republic On the Move) must now scramble together a majority of lawmakers in June’s parliamentary elections.

That won’t be easy. Macron is the first president of modern France elected as an independent.

Rivals who backed Macron to counter Le Pen in the presidential runoff will now be mobilized to defeat him in the two-round June 11 and 18 parliamentary vote, aiming to elect their own party members to the National Assembly. All 577 seats in the Assembly are up for grabs.

If another party wins a majority, Macron could be pressured to choose a prime minister from that party, a situation the French call “cohabitation.”

The Republicans, whose defeated presidential candidate Francois Fillon was hobbled by charges that his family benefited from taxpayer-funded jobs, still could emerge as the nation’s strongest political party.

If they win a majority, Francois Baroin, the leader of their parliamentary election campaign, could become a right-wing prime minister under the centrist Macron.

The last time France had “cohabitation” was under President Jacques Chirac in 1997-2002, who described the setup as a state of “paralysis.”

If Macron’s party performs poorly, he could also be forced to form a coalition, a common occurrence in many European countries but something very unusual in France.

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EUROPE

The choice of the pro-EU Macron as president of the eurozone’s second-largest economy has prompted relief across the European Union.

In his victory speech, Macron vowed to “rebuild the relationship between Europe and the peoples that make it.” Symbolically, Macron also said German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be the first foreign leader he will meet as president.

But the future stability of the bloc is far from certain. EU divorce negotiations with Britain could turn ugly or a populist vote in neighboring Italy might reject the EU.

Le Pen’s “France first,” anti-Europe message struck a chord with great swathes of the country. She had campaigned to ditch the euro and hold a referendum on EU membership.

Macron’s task will be to show Le Pen’s voters that he will follow through on promises to fundamentally reform the 28-nation bloc.

The French president’s position in Europe will also become more powerful when Britain leaves the EU in 2019, as France will become the EU’s only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

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PROTECTING FRANCE

With more than 230 people killed in extremist attacks since 2015, Macron needs to prove he has a robust plan to protect the French from terrorism.

The former banker launched his presidential campaign with a plan to tackle extremist attacks by obliging internet companies to release encrypted messages.

But Le Pen tried to paint him as weak and inexperienced on security issues while she promoted her plans to expel individuals on the security-threat list and stamp out Islamic extremism.

Macron rejected Le Pen’s plan to strip dual-nationals convicted of terror offenses of French nationality on rights grounds.

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