Emmanuel Macron has comfortably defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the second round of France's presidential election, winning 58.55% of the votes against 41.45% for Ms Le Pen, final interior ministry figures showed this morning.

Those figures compared to Mr Macron's first victory in 2017, when Mr Macron won 66.1% of the vote against 33.9% for Ms Le Pen five years ago.

The abstention rate was 28.1% against 25.4% in 2017, marking the lowest turnout recorded in a French presidential election final since 1969.

The focus has now shifted to the whether the re-elected president can score another victory in the June 12 and 19 French parliamentary elections.

But last night, his supporters cheered loudly as projected results appeared on a giant screen at the Champ de Mars Park by the Eiffel tower, but today protests took place in some areas.

Meanwhile leaders in Berlin, Brussels, London and beyond welcomed Mr Macron's defeat of the nationalist, eurosceptic Ms Le Pen, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Congratulating Mr Macron, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that with the war in Ukraine it was important to have a French president who was so committed to the fundamental values of the European Union and to its success.

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With 97% of votes counted last night, Mr Macron was on course for a solid 57.4% of the vote, but in his victory speech, he acknowledged that many had only voted for him only to keep Ms Le Pen out and he promised to address the sense of many French that their living standards are slipping.

"Many in this country voted for me not because they support my ideas, but to keep out those of the far-right. I want to thank them and know I owe them a debt in the years to come," he said.

"No one in France will be left by the wayside," he said in a message that had already been spread by senior ministers doing the rounds on French TV stations.

Two years of disruption from the pandemic and surging energy prices exacerbated by the Ukraine war catapulted economic issues to the fore of the campaign. The rising cost of living has become an increasing strain for the poorest in the country.

"He needs to be closer to the people and to listen to them," digital sales worker Virginie, 51, said at the Macron rally, adding he needed to overcome a reputation for arrogance and soften a leadership style Mr Macron himself called "Jupiterian".

Ms Le Pen, who at one stage of the campaign had trailed Mr Macron by just a few points in opinion polls, quickly admitted defeat. But she vowed to keep up the fight with parliamentary elections in June.

"I will never abandon the French," she told supporters who chanted her name.

No grace period

Mr Macron can expect little or no grace period in a country whose stark political divisions have been brought into the open by an election in which radical parties scored well.

"There will be continuity in government policy because the president has been reelected," Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

"But we have also heard the French people's message."

How Mr Macron now fares will depend on the looming parliamentary elections, as Ms Le Pen wants a nationalist alliance in a move that raises the prospect of her working with rival far-rightists like Eric Zemmour and her niece, Marion Marechal.

Hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, who emerged as by far the strongest force on the left of French politics, said he deserves to be prime minister - something that would force Mr Macron into an awkward and stalemate-prone "cohabitation".

Under cohabitation, where a president picks a prime minister from the opposition, the president's powers are severely curbed, retaining the lead on foreign policy influence but ceding responsibility for most day-to-day policy matters to the government.

Mr Melenchon has already dubbed the June polls the "third round" of the election cycle, as his LaFrance Insoumise party (France Unbowed) is pressing for an unprecedented left-wing alliance with the Parti Communiste, the Greens and the centre-left Parti Socialiste.

Negotiations are underway with the Greens, but there is resistance from some within the Socialists' fractured ranks.

Outside France, Mr Macron's victory was hailed as a reprieve for mainstream politics rocked in recent years by Britain's exit from the European Union, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the rise of a new generation of nationalist leaders.

"Bravo Emmanuel," European Council President Charles Michel, wrote on Twitter.

"In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union."

"Congratulations to the President and a true friend @EmmanuelMacron on the election victory," Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on his Twitter account early this morning.

"The financial markets will breathe a collective sigh of relief following Macron's election victory," said Seema Shah, Chief Strategist at Principal Global Investors.

French divides

The disillusion with Mr Macron was reflected in an abstention rate expected to settle around 28%, the highest since 1969.

Initial polling showed the vote was sharply split both by age and socio-economic status: Two-thirds of working class voters backed Ms Le Pen, while similar proportions of white-collar executives and pensioners backed Mr Macron, an Elabe poll showed.

Mr Macron won around 59% of votes by 18-24 year-olds, with the vote almost evenly split in other age categories.

During the campaign, Ms Le Pen homed in on the rising cost of living and Mr Macron's sometimes abrasive style as some of his weakest points.

She promised sharp cuts to fuel tax, 0% sales tax on essential items from pasta to nappies, income exemptions for young workers and a "French first" stance on jobs and welfare.

Mr Macron meanwhile pointed to Ms Le Pen's past admiration for Russia's Vladimir Putin as showing she could not be trusted on the world stage, while insisting she still harboured plans to pull France out of the European Union - something she denies.

It's now predicted that Mr Macron may struggle to gain the clear legislative majority that French voters tend to bestow on their presidents, but in a fragmented political landscape, this would be true for any leader.

But Mr Macron's La Republique en Marche party has struggled to anchor itself at a grassroot level and levels of public dissatisfaction with the president remain high.