Macron’s Republic on The Move had 21.9% of the vote compared with 24.1% for the anti-European National Rally with 90% of ballots counted . The Greens rose to third with 13.1%, the conservative Republicans got 8% and the Socialists 6.4%. In the last EU vote in 2014 Le Pen beat the conservatives by 4 percentage points with Macron’s Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande trailing in third.
The result is a setback for 41-year-old Macron in his battle for legitimacy as he tries to persuade the rest of the European Union to pursue tighter integration. Still, the narrow defeat most likely won’t derail his domestic agenda as the government prepares for a major overhaul of the pension system. Polls in Germany showed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats came first, although with fewer seats than last time.
“I greet this result with humility,” said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who will keep his job according to the president’s office. “When you come second in an election, you can’t call it a victory.”