PARIS — Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, triumphing on Sunday over Marine Le Pen, his far-right challenger, after a campaign where his promise of stability prevailed over the strong temptation of an extremist lurch.
Early projections at the close of voting, which are generally reliable, showed Mr. Macron, a centrist, gaining 58.2 percent of the vote to Ms. Le Pen’s 41.8 percent. His victory was much narrower than in 2017, when the margin was 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent for Ms. Le Pen, but wider than appeared likely two weeks ago.
The French do not generally love their presidents, and none had succeeded in being re-elected since 2002. Mr. Macron’s unusual achievement in securing five more years in power reflects his effective stewardship over the Covid-19 crisis, his rekindling of the economy, and his political agility in occupying the entire center of the political spectrum.
Ms. Le Pen, softening her image if not her anti-immigrant nationalist program, rode a wave of alienation and disenchantment to bring the extreme right closer to power than at any time since 1944. Her National Rally party has joined the mainstream, ending the taboo that held that defense of the Republic meant keeping the far right at the margins.
Mr. Macron’s victory over Ms. Le Pen, a longtime sympathizer with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the leader of a party hostile to NATO, will come as a relief to the United States and France’s European allies at a time when there is a war raging in Ukraine.
Ms. Le Pen, to judge by her program and past actions, would have pursued policies that weakened the united allied front to save Ukraine from Russia’s assault, offered Mr. Putin a breach to exploit in Europe, and undermined the European Union, whose engine has always been a joint Franco-German commitment to it.
If Brexit was a blow to unity, a French nationalist quasi exit, as set out in Ms. Le Pen’s proposals, would have left the European Union on life support. That, in turn, would have crippled an essential guarantor of peace on the continent in a volatile moment.
Mr. Macron’s second victory felt different from his first. Five years ago, he was a 39-year-old wunderkind bursting on the French political scene with a promise to bury sterile left-right divisions and build a more just, equal, open and dynamic society.
He succeeded in spurring growth, slashing unemployment and instilling a start-up tech culture, but was unable to address growing inequality or simmering anger among the alienated and the struggling in areas of urban blight and rural remoteness. Societal divisions sharpened as incomes stagnated, prices rose and automation killed factory jobs.
As a result, Mr. Macron’s political capital is more limited, even if his clear victory has saved France from a dangerous tilt toward xenophobic nationalism.