Macron and Le Pen
Macron and Le Pen צילום: רויטרס

French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to become the first French head of government to be reelected in two decades, with exit polls Sunday night showing him with a double-digit lead.

As the polls closed in France, an exit poll conducted by Ipsos-Sopra Steria projects Macron will defeat his right-wing challenger, Marine Le Pen, by more than 16 points.

Currently, Macron, the incumbent and leader of the centrist En Marche party, is projected to receive 58.2% of the vote, compared to 41.8% for National Rally party chairwoman Le Pen.

Le Pen acknowledged defeat in a concession speech Sunday, but vowed to run for a third time, claiming that despite her loss, her political movement had won a "sparkling victory."

Turnout is estimated to have reached 71.8%, down from 74.6% in the second round of voting in the previous presidential election, held in 2017.

Macron defeat Le Pen by a massive 32.2-point margin in 2017, after the two candidates topped the first round of voting.

This time, however, public opinion polls predicted a far closer race, with some surveys showing Macron’s lead smaller than the margin of error, leading left-wing rivals to call on voters to back Macron and keep Le Pen from a surprise victory.

Le Pen’s campaign benefited from widespread frustrations over the post-COVID economic slowdown, and high inflation rates, both of which fueled anger towards the incumbent.

While her 2017 campaign focused heavily on her pledge to curtail mass immigration and to preserve France’s national character and withdraw from the European Union, this year, Le Pen highlighted her platform’s emphasis on economic populism, in particular a focus on the cost of living.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid congratulated Macron Sunday night, tweeting: "Congratulations to my good friend Emmanuel Macron on being reelected as President of France. President Macron is an important leader of the global center and a true friend of Israel. We’ll continue to work together to strengthen cooperation between our countries."