Macron Decisively Defeats Le Pen in French Presidential Race



Emmanuel Macron Delivers Victory Speech

France’s president-elect spoke at the Louvre after defeating the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron, a youthful former investment banker, handily won France’s presidential election on Sunday, defeating the staunch nationalist Marine Le Pen after voters firmly rejected her far-right message and backed his call for centrist change.

Mr. Macron, 39, who has never held elected office, will be the youngest president in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic after leading an improbable campaign that swept aside France’s establishment political parties.

The election was watched around the world for magnifying many of the broader tensions rippling through Western democracies, including the United States: populist anger at the political mainstream, economic insecurity among middle-class voters and rising resentment toward immigrants.

Mr. Macron’s victory offered significant relief to the European Union, which Ms. Le Pen had threatened to leave. His platform to loosen labor rules, make France more competitive globally and deepen ties with the European Union is also likely to reassure a global financial market that was jittery at the prospect of a Le Pen victory.

Continue reading the main story

Her loss provided further signs that the populist wave that swept Britain out of the European Union and Donald J. Trump into the White House may have crested in Europe, for now.

“I understand the divisions of our country that have led some to vote for extremists,” Mr. Macron said after the vote. “I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a great part among us have also expressed.”

Mr. Macron pledged to do all he could in his five-year term to bring France together. “I will do everything I can in the coming five years to make sure you never have a reason to vote for extremism again,” he said later Sunday evening, standing before the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre, once the main residence of France’s kings, as thousands of flag-waving supporters gathered in the courtyard to celebrate.

But the election results showed that many people chose not to vote for either candidate, signaling skepticism about his project. And Mr. Macron quickly made clear that he understood the magnitude of the task before him after an often angry campaign.


Supporters Elated by Macron’s Election

French citizens hoping the centrist candidate would become France’s next president were overcome with joy and relief as the final result came in.

By CAMILLA SCHICK and STEFANIA ROUSSELLE on Publish DateMay 7, 2017. Photo by Eric Feferberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »

“It is my responsibility to hear and protect the most fragile,” he said.

With nearly 100 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Macron had 66 percent, compared with 34 percent for Ms. Le Pen, according to the official count from the Interior Ministry.

The outcome was a watershed for Ms. Le Pen’s party, the far-right National Front, giving it new legitimacy even though the results showed that the party remains anathema to much of the French electorate for its history of anti-Semitism, racism and Nazi nostalgia.

As significant for France and for Mr. Macron’s future, nearly 34 percent of eligible voters did not cast a ballot or cast a blank or null one, suggesting that a large number of people could not bring themselves to vote for him. The abstention rate was the highest since 1969.

That lack of support presaged a difficult road ahead as Mr. Macron tries to build a legislative majority to push through his program. French parliamentary elections are next month. Currently, he has no party in Parliament.

Among the odds stacked against Mr. Macron, a former economy minister in the departing Socialist government, are deep doubts about the merits of a market economy.

“We saw the emergence of very strong anticapitalist forces,” said Gaspard Koenig, the director of the French think tank Generation Libre.

“You have 50 percent of the electorate that reject the market economy in a very radical way,” Mr. Koenig added. “Thus, he must during the next five years convince people that there are alternatives to the destruction of capitalism that can help them.”

The runoff election was groundbreaking for being a choice between two political outsiders, as well as for its rancor and for an apparent attempt to sway the vote with the hacking of Macron campaign emails, similar to the attack directed at last year’s election in the United States.


How France Voted

Detailed maps of the French presidential election show how Emmanuel Macron decisively beat right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen.


Ms. Le Pen, 48, conceded the election not long after polls closed in France, saying voters had chosen “continuity,” denying Mr. Macron his outsider status and linking him to the departing Socialists.

The vote was a record for the National Front and, she said, a mandate for it to become a new “patriotic and republican alliance” that would be “the primary opposition force against the new president.”

Ms. Le Pen earned 10.6 million votes, close to twice the number her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, received when he ran a losing presidential campaign against Jacques Chirac in 2002. The 34 percent of the vote Ms. Le Pen won was the highest share the French had ever given to her party.

The election was also the first in which the National Front candidate — rather than being a pariah who was shut out of debates and kept off the front pages of major newspapers, as happened in 2002 — was treated more like a normal candidate despite the party’s anti-Semitic and racist roots.

After taking over the party leadership in 2011, Ms. Le Pen worked to distance the National Front from her father, its founder. Stéphane Ravier, a National Front senator and a close adviser to Ms. Le Pen, said the party needed to go further in remaking its identity.

“We will need to make some changes, do things differently,” he said in an interview as the returns came in. “We will have to talk about our positions on the euro with more pedagogy. We may also have to change the name of the party.”

In her concession speech, Ms. Le Pen acknowledged that the party had to “profoundly” renew itself to become a “new political force.”

Ms. Le Pen clearly failed to persuade enough voters that her party had sufficiently changed. Many of the votes Mr. Macron received on Sunday were no doubt cast less in support of him than in rejection of her. Nearly the entire political establishment spoke out against a Le Pen presidency.


Marine Le Pen Concedes French Election

The far-right French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, thanked her supporters and congratulated her opponent, Emmanuel Macron, after pollsters projected that he would be the next president.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and REUTERS. Photo by Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video 

Mr. Macron formed his political movement, En Marche! (Onward!), a little more than a year ago. He was initially given a slim chance of winning in a country that has never elected a president from outside the traditional left-wing or right-wing parties, with the exception of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, a centrist who led from 1974 to 1981.

Since then, French politics has been dominated by the Socialists on the left and the Republicans (or their precursors) on the right.

Mr. Macron’s campaign benefited from canny timing and no small dose of luck, with the collapse of the governing Socialist Party under President François Hollande, the incumbent, who was so unpopular that he took the extraordinary step of not seeking re-election.

Mr. Macron was also helped by an embezzlement scandal that damaged the candidacy of the center-right candidate François Fillon, who, at the start of the campaign, seemed certain to claim the presidency.

Mr. Macron’s message — that his new movement was neither right nor left, but represented a third way, with elements of both — seemed to appeal to numerous urban voters, as well as to many young voters.

As the results appeared on a screen set up at the Louvre, Macron supporters shouted with joy. Some started singing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

“This is a historic moment,” said Jacques Pupponi, 60, who came with his children: Noé, 11; Dora, 12; and Eden, 13.

“I’ve lived moments like this before, in 1981,” he added, referring to the election of the Socialist president François Mitterrand. “I’m very happy about the score — it’s very, very important,” Mr. Pupponi said of Mr. Macron’s decisive victory.

For Mourad Djebali, 30, a Tunisian engineer who obtained French citizenship a few months ago, the result felt like a personal affirmation. “I’m moved,” Mr. Djebali said. “I recognize the France that has received me.

“It’s a great symbol of France,” he added. “It’s a sign of hope. Everyone doesn’t agree with each other, but that one thing we agree on is that we should not open the door to the extremes.”

Russian politicians see Le Pen as a ‘hope for change’ but expect Macron victory

Following Francois Fillon’s defeat in the first round of the French presidential race, Moscow is taking a close look at the two candidates left. Among many Kremlin politicians, Marine Le Pen is the new preferred choice.

Frankreich Präsidentschaftswahl Macron und Le Pen (Reuters/C. Hartmann)

With conservative Francois Fillon finishing third in Sunday’s first round vote, the Kremlin lost its favored French presidential candidate. While centrist Emmanuel Macron is now largely seen by Russian politicians and experts as the most likely to win the run-off election on May 7, they suggested that as a president he won’t help to solve France’s political woes.

For the Kremlin, Fillon’s election defeat is not good news. Among France’s four main presidential candidates, he pursued the closest ties with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. The two politicians have been on friendly terms since they both served as prime ministers between 2007 and 2012.

Frankreich Wahl Francois Fillon Rede in Paris nach der Niederlage (Reuters/C. Hartmann)Many saw Fillon as Moscow’s preferred candidate

During that time, Putin and Fillon spent many hours in negotiations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last year. “They indeed keep friendly relations,” he added. Speaking of his former colleague, Putin himself described the Republican candidate as a “tough negotiator” and “without any doubt a highly professional and decent person.”

During the election campaign, Fillon demonstrated his friendly leanings toward Moscow, calling the Western sanctions against Russia “totally ineffective.” Speaking of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, he repeatedly cited the right to “self-determination.”

Macron wary of Russia  

In contrast to Fillon, front-runner Emmanuel Macron is the most unfavorable candidate for Moscow. Although intending to maintain dialogue with Russia, the 39-year old politician urged the European Union to take a hard line on any possible interference in the election process in Europe, “Bloomberg” reported in February, citing an unidentified official from his campaign.

The report came a day after Macron’s campaign chief Richard Ferrand accused Russia of carrying out cyberattacks on the campaign’s computer network. He also accused Moscow of using fake news in an effort to discredit Macron ahead of the election.

Watch video02:47

Macron and Le Pen in French runoff

The former economy minster won almost 24 percent of the vote in the first round on Sunday, closely followed by right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, who garnered 21.3 percent. For Russia, this outcome hardly came as a surprise, with some politicians and political analysts in Moscow suggesting that Le Pen is unlikely to beat Macron in the second round. “It is obvious that the Western world will do anything to prevent Le Pen from gaining the presidential seat,” The State Duma deputy with ruling United Russia party, Sergei Zheleznyak, told reporters on Monday. “They don’t need a president of France, who advocates the independence and sovereignty of his country, preserving national identity and traditional values, who is ready for a dialogue and equal cooperation with other countries and opposes the sanctions policy,” he added, apparently referring to the Western establishment.

During her visit to Moscow in late March when she met Vladimir Putin, Le Pen pointed out that she is “in favor of developing relations with Russia” and called for cooperation with Moscow in the fight against terrorism. In 2014, her party, the National Front, received a 9 million euro ($9.8 million) loan from a Russian bank after French financial institutions denied it a credit.

Clinton and Trump in the French manner

Deputy chairman of Russia’s Communist Party Ivan Melnikov pointed out that Le Pen and the two leading presidential candidates who hadn’t made it to the second round – Francois Fillon and leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon got roughly 60 percent of the votes in total. “These are the candidates who declared a course for cooperation with Russia. Mr. Macron must consider that now,” the Russian politician said.

USA | Ende der 3. Präsidentschaftsdebatte 2016 in Las Vegas (REUTERS/M. Blake)The US and French elections – can parallels be drawn?

Meanwhile, State Duma deputy Zheleznyak suggested that the close first round finish between Macron and Le Pen created intrigue for the runoff in May. The head of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, compared France’s upcoming vote with the recent presidential election in the United States, which saw Hillary Clinton defeated by Donald Trump. In France, just like in the US, “hopeless tenacity in preserving the previous policy on the one hand will compete with hope for change on the other,” Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page. The only difference is that in the US “hopelessness was female,” he added, referring to Clinton, “and here it’s vice versa.”

The politician also added that the likely outcome – a Macron victory – will not solve France’s problems, but only postpone them. Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow, echoed this thought. In an interview with news agency Interfax he said he doesn’t believe that as a new president Macron could lead the country out of political and economic crisis. “It looks like he is a product of a political combination of circumstances rather than a representative of any distinct political program,” Lukyanov  said, referring to the French politician. “If so,” he added, “the situation might only get worse in the future, and then the new political reality will not be better than the old one.”



French presidential election: Le Pen, Macron projected as winners in first round

As France’s polls closed in the first round of presidential voting on Sunday, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron were projected by multiple news agencies to advance to a May 7 runoff.

The projections, based on vote totals in certain constituencies that were then extrapolated nationwide, were reported by The Associated Press, Reuters and AFP.

With 19.1 percent of the official vote counted, the Interior Ministry said Sunday night that Le Pen was leading with 25 percent followed by Macron with 21.3 percent. The early vote count includes primarily rural constituencies that lean to the right, while urban areas that lean left are counted later.

The likely Le Pen-Macron matchup was announced almost immediately after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time. But even before the first results were announced, Le Pen’s fans were so sure of her victory they began singing “La Marseillaise” at one of her headquarters.

The May 7 runoff now places the controversial, right-wing nationalist Le Pen against the centrist, Pro-European Union Macron. Le Pen’s entry into the second round of voting was being watched closely around the globe and is seen as another victory for a populist movement that has recently claimed wins in Britain’s so-called “Brexit” referendum and the election of President Trump in the United States.

Multiple politicians immediately endorsed Macron in the second round of voting, including embattled conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who conceded shortly after polls closed. Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also called for the country to mobilize around Macron and beat Le Pen.

Security around the more than 60,000 polling stations was tightened up in wake of the deadly shooting on the Champs-Elysses on Thursday, which left one police officer and a gunman dead. The government mobilized more than 50,000 police and gendarmes to protect the polling places and an additional 7,000 soldiers were on patrol.

It is the first time in recent memory that a presidential election, in which 47 million people are eligible to vote, taking place during a state of emergency, which was put in place after the Paris attacks of November 2015.

France’s Interior Ministry said voter turnout by late afternoon was 69.4 percent — slightly lower than in 2012, when turnout was high. There was a marked surge in turnout in the Paris region.

France’s 10 percent unemployment, its lackluster economy and security issues topped concerns for the 47 million eligible voters.

Paris shooting casts shadow over final day of French election campaign

Paris (CNN)A deadly attack on a police bus in the heart of Paris cast the shadow of terror over the final days of the French presidential election campaign.

One police officer died after a gunman wielding a machine gun leapt out of a car and opened fire on the Champs-Elysees, Paris’s most famous boulevard, as candidates were engaging in their final TV debate.
Gunman opens fire on police in Paris

Gunman opens fire on police in Paris 00:45
The attack dramatically changed the course of the campaign’s final hours: the three main candidates canceled campaign events and instead made televised statements in which they competed to talk tough on security and vowed a crackdown on ISIS.
The far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, demanded the closure of all Islamist mosques. The Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, accused her of trying to capitalize on the attack.
ISIS swiftly claimed the attack was carried out by one of its “fighters.” The assailant — Karim Cheurfi, a French national with a long and violent criminal record — was shot dead as he tried to make his escape. Prosecutors said a note defending ISIS fell out of his pocket, although there was no previous evidence of radicalization.

Key developments:

  • Attack came days before first round of voting in presidential election.
  • Paris prosecutors named the attacker as Karim Cheurfi.
  • Three members of attacker’s family arrested.
  • ISIS names a man it claims was involved in the attack.

Election in turmoil

Center-right candidate François Fillon, Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron canceled planned campaign events after the shooting. Under French election rules, Friday was due to be the final day of campaigning before Sunday’s first round of voting.
ISIS claims responsibility for Paris attack

ISIS claims responsibility for Paris attack 02:17
It was unclear whether the attack would tip the balance of the vote in favor of Le Pen, who has vowed to take a tough line on “Islamic terrorism.”
At a televised news conference Friday, Le Pen called for the closure of all “Islamist” mosques in France, the expulsion of hate preachers and the reinstatement of French borders.
People on the French security services’ watch list for radicalization should also be expelled from France and have their French citizenship revoked, she said.
Cazeneuve accused Le Pen of trying to capitalize on the attack. “The candidate of the Front National, like every drama, seeks to profit from and to control the situation to divide. She seeks to benefit from fear for exclusively political ends, the Prime Minister said in a televised address.
Fillon said that if elected, his foreign policy priority would be the destruction of ISIS. He also called for the creation of 10,000 more police posts.
Paris attack witness: ‘I hid in a corner’ 01:26
“In times such as these we have to demonstrate that France is united,” he said. “We also have to be clear that we are in a state of emergency. We are at war. This fight for freedom and for the security of the French people must be the priority of the next five-year term.”
Cazeneuve, however, questioned Fillon’s position on security, saying that when he previously served as Prime Minister he had cut thousands of security force jobs.
Macron appealed to voters not to succumb to fear. “Do not give in to fear, do not give in to division, do not give in to intimidation,” he said. “The choice that you have to make on Sunday must be a choice for the future.”
Macron said he would hire an additional 10,000 police officers in the next five years and that he would create a task force under the French Presidency to fight ISIS.
Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon urged the French people to “remain cool-headed” and “to not subject ourselves to hate, vengeance and resentment.”

Terror investigation

On its media channel, Amaq, ISIS claimed that the attack was carried out by “Abu Yousuf al-Baljiki (the Belgian) and he is one of the Islamic State’s fighters.”
Belgian Interior Ministry spokesman Olivier Van Raemdonck told CNN the attacker was not Belgian and that there did not appear to be a Belgian connection to the incident.
It is not clear to whom ISIS was referring in its claim.
A man who turned himself in to Antwerp police was Youssef El Osri. The man’s lawyer, Nabil Riffi, told CNN his client was “very shocked” at being linked to the Paris shooting and that he had been working at a gas station in Antwerp at the time it occurred.
Security in Paris has been stepped up in recent days, but the presence of 50,000 police officers on the streets was not enough to prevent the latest assault, which was being investigated by anti-terror officials.
French President François Hollande convened a meeting of the country’s defense council Friday.
The dead officer was 37, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported. One of the wounded officers was critically injured but is improving, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said. Also wounded was a female tourist.
A damaged window is pictured on the Champs Elysees boulevard in Paris early Friday.

Molins said the attacker had a long criminal record. He spent 11 years in jail after shooting two police officers in 2001. While in custody, he shot and injured a prison officer after grabbing his gun. He was jailed again in 2013 for lesser offenses and released on probation two years later.
Molins said Cheurfi was investigated by counterterror officials earlier this year because of alleged threats he made against police. He was briefly placed under house arrest and investigators discovered knives and masks in his home but no evidence linking him to terror groups, Molins said.
Despite his long criminal record, Cheurfi was never placed on a terror watch list because there were no signs of radicalization, Molins told reporters.
Three members of his family were arrested in the Paris suburb of Chelles early Friday morning.
Earlier this week French authorities arrested two men in Marseille who were allegedly planning an attack in a run-up to the election.

World leaders react

A woman places a flower Friday at the spot where the shooting occurred.

Speaking in Indonesia Friday, US Vice President Mike Pence said the attack was just the latest reminder “that terrorism can strike anywhere at any time.”
French election: Related content
  • Opinion: The stakes for the French election just got higher
  • US President Donald Trump, at a news conference in Washington, said: “What can you say? It never ends.”
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her sympathy “goes out to the victims and their families,” according to her spokesman Steffen Seibert.
    In a statement, the UK government said it “strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attack in Paris.”
    France has been in a state of emergency since the 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead. Parliament voted in December to extend the extraordinary provisions to ensure the protection of upcoming presidential and general elections.
    Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the extent to which French intelligence authorities were monitoring Karim Cheurfi before the attack.

    CIA and FBI agree Russia intervened in US presidential election

    The CIA and FBI have concluded that Russia interfered in the US presidential election in support of eventual winner Donald Trump. The White House also agrees with the findings.

    Deutschland FBI Logo in der US-Botschaft in Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/T. Brakemeier)

    The FBI is supporting the CIA’s belief that Russia interfered with the United States presidential election in order to support the Republican candidate, and eventual winner, Donald Trump.

    CIA Director John Brennan sent an email to his employees that he spoke with FBI Director James Comey and director of national intelligence James Clapper about their agreement in Russia’s involvement. “I met separately with FBI (Director) James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election,” said Brennan in the email, according to the Washington Post.

    The email continued by saying the three organizations “need to focus on completing the thorough review of this issue that has been directed by President Obama and which is being led by the DNI.”

    The White House said it was “fact” that hacking from Russia helped Trump secure the US presidency in November’s election. Current US President Barack Obama said during a press conference Friday he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russian hackers should “cut it out or there were going to be serious consequences if he didn’t” during a face-to-face encounter in China during a G20 meeting.

    Russia dismissed the hacking accusations. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “(the US) should either stop talking about that, or produce some proof at last. Otherwise it all begins to look unseemly.”

    There has been no publicly released evidence of Russia’s suspected role in the US election, but US officials said there was no vote tampering during the presidential election.

    President-elect Trump maintains he won the election fairly and criticized the timing of the investigation.

    kbd/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

    Watch video05:37

    Marc Fisher, Washington Post, on CIA Russia hacking report



    Gambia leader Jammeh files petition to overturn Barrow victory

    Gambia leader Yahya Jammeh has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to void the recent presidential election result. He had earlier conceded defeat to Adama Barrow.

    Gambia Streit um das Ergebnis der Präsidentenwahl (REUTERS/A. Sotunde)

    “The electoral commission has violated the law and opposition leader Adama Barrow is not duly elected or returned as president [ .. ]  the election is void,” a filing seen by the French new agency AFP said.

    Jammeh last week announced his intention to challenge the election results. The 51-year-old, who has ruled the West African country for 22 years, had earlier conceded defeat to Adama Barrow, but then called armed military and police officers on to the streets of the capital Banjul.

    Changing his mind

    Security forces on Tuesday blocked the entrance to the electoral commission in Banjul, as outgoing President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept that he lost the presidential polls.

    Security forces loyal to Jammeh surrounded the commission’s offices and barred anyone from entering, staff said.

    The move appeared to be linked to Jammeh’s announcement on Saturday that he planned a legal challenge to the election results, which he had previously said he would abide by.

    The chair of the electoral commission, Alieu Momarr Njie, called on Jammeh to admit defeat but was refused entry to his offices, the secretary general of The Gambia Press Union, Saikou Jammeh, told the German press agency DPA.

    Army on board

    The Gambia’s chief of defense staff, Ousman Badjie, told local journalists he would remain loyal to Jammeh, indicating that the country’s military would help the autocrat stay in power.

    Barrow was initially supposed to take power in January.  Technically, the president does not have to relinquish power until then.

    Military intervention?

    President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama met with regional West African leadersPresident of Ghana John Dramani Mahama met with regional West African leaders

    Military intervention in The Gambia is “possible” if Jammeh does not step down after having lost elections, the head of the West African regional bloc Ecowas said on Tuesday.

    Earlier on Tuesday, an African Union (AU) delegation arrived in Banjul, hoping to persuade Jammeh to accept his loss and hand over power to Barrow. The delegation was also expected to conduct talks with the Barrow and members of the opposition coalition, which supported his bid for the presidency.

    The AU “strongly rejects any attempt to circumvent or reverse the outcome of the presidential election held in The Gambia …, a clear expression of the popular will and choice of the Gambian people,” the organization said in a statement.

    Diplomacy was the preferred path, but “draconian” measures would have to be considered if it failed, Marcel de Souza told France’s RFI radio station.

    Asked whether Ecowas would consider sending troops into The Gambia, De Souza told Radio France Internationale: “We have done it in the past. We currently have troops in Guinea-Bissau with the Ecomib mission. We have had troops in Mali. And therefore it is a possible solution.”

    The leaders of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone (president Ernest Bai Koroma pictured above) all arrived earlier in Banjul as part of a delegation seeking to persuade Jammeh to step down.

    Watch video04:22

    Gambia’s new leader plans rights abuse probe

    jh/jm (AFP, dpa)



    Voters celebrate defeat of Gambia’s ‘billion year’ president

    Adama Barrow has defeated Yahya Jammeh, who ran the country for more than 20 years. Jammeh surprised observers by admitting defeat, despite once boasting he would rule Gambia for a billion years.

    Watch video02:34

    Gambia: Jammeh defeated by ballot box

    In a political upset, outgoing Gambian President Yahya Jammeh conceded defeat in the country’s election late Friday. Before losing in the polls to newcomer Adama Barrow, Jammeh had ruled the small West African nation for 22 years.

    “Gambians have spoken,” Jammeh said, after calling Barrow to congratulate him. “I came on a Friday on December 22, 1994, and today, December 2, 2016, you have decided to put me in the back seat.”

    The longtime strongman, who came to power in a military coup, said he would now “live and die” for the Gambian people as a farmer instead of a president. Jammeh garnered around 212,000 votes to Barrow’s 263,500 – with a third-party candidate, Mama Kandeh, getting around 103,000 votes.

    Many elections since Jammeh came to power have been mired in allegations of foul play, and the country experienced a nationwide Internet blackout on the eve of Friday’s vote.

    Demonstrators shouted, “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” Friday in the streets of the capital, Banjul, as spontaneous celebrations erupted across the city.

    Elfenbeinküste Präsident Yahya Jammeh in Yamoussoukro (Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo)Jammeh said he could not refute the results of such a transparent election

    Popular businessman ushers in new era

    Barrow, a real estate CEO, is a newcomer to the political scene – selected by a coalition of seven opposition parties in a bid to end Jammeh’s repressive rule.

    Jammeh, who has previously said that with the will of God he could rule for a billion years, has been accused by rights groups of abuses, including killing political opponents and clamping down on journalists and gays. During his reign he swung the country in an Islamic direction, last year declaring the country an Islamic Republic.

    The president-elect, who has found a great deal of support amongst the country’s unemployed youth, is set to be sworn in after 60 days and will have a mandate of five years.

    International observers praised the transparency of the election. US State Department spokesman John Kirby said of the vote: “Never before has power changed hands through the ballot box, so it’s a big deal. We encourage all Gambians to respect the election results and the government of Gambia to respect the rights of citizens to freely assemble as they respond to the results of the election,”

    es/gsw (AP, dpa, Reuters)




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