By JOHN LEICESTER and SYLVIE CORBET
PARIS — French voters elected centrist Emmanuel Macron as the country’s youngest president ever on Sunday, delivering a resounding victory to the unabashedly pro-European former investment banker and strengthening France’s place as a central pillar of the European Union.
A crowd of Macron supporters roared with delight at the news, jubilantly waving red, white and blue tricolor flags at a victory party outside the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent in the presidential runoff, quickly called the 39-year-old Macron to concede defeat after voters rejected her “French-first” nationalism by a large margin.
The result wasn’t even close: Pollsters projected that Macron won 65 percent of the votes. Le Pen’s projected 35 percent score was lower than her polling numbers earlier in the campaign, and dashed her hopes that the populist wave which swept Donald Trump into the White House would also carry her to France’s presidential Elysee Palace.
Macron’s victory marked the third time in six months — following elections in Austria and the Netherlands — that European voters shot down far-right populists who wanted to restore borders across Europe. The election of a French president who championed European unity could strengthen the EU’s hand in its complex divorce proceedings with Britain, which voted last year to leave the bloc.
In a statement minutes after the last polls closed Sunday night, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced Macron’s victory.
“(This) testifies to the lucidity of the voters, who rejected the deadly project of the extreme right,” he said, adding that the presidential vote showed an embrace of the EU.
Many French voters backed Macron reluctantly, not because they agreed with his politics but simply to keep out Le Pen and her far-right National Front party, which is still tainted by its long anti-Semitic and racist history.
After the most closely watched and…