PARIS (Reuters) - French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron hailed the election defeat of far-right Dutch candidate Geert Wilders on Thursday as a win for ‘progressives’, but there was no immediate reaction from his rival Marine Le Pen.
“The Netherlands is showing us that a breakthrough for the extreme right is not a foregone conclusion and that progressives are gaining momentum,” said Macron, 39, who pledges to modernise French politics and transcend traditional left-versus-right divisions.
Wilders’ anti-European Union, anti-Islam party gained seats in Wednesday’s election but was clearly beaten by centre-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and has no chance of entering a coalition government as rival parties have shunned it.
A win for Wilders would have been seen as a strong boost for Le Pen, whose National Front wants to curb immigration and take France out of the euro, in the French presidential election on April 23 and May 7.
With Le Pen conspicuously silent, the first reaction from her party came from its secretary-general Nicolas Bay.
He highlighted a rise in the number of seats won by Wilders’ party, from 15 to 20, calling that a “partial victory even if not the final victory”.
Rutte’s score, he said, had undoubtedly been boosted late in the campaign by a standoff with Turkey in which his government refused to let Turkish government politicians stage rallies on Dutch soil, where many Turkish expatriates live.
Outgoing French President Francois Hollande issued a statement warmly congratulating Rutte on his “clear victory against extremism”.
Opinion polls show Le Pen winning the first round of the election in April, but then losing a decisive head-to-head vote in May to Macron or conservative Francois Fillon. The polls show Macron far more likely to get to the runoff than Fillon.
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Brian Love; Editing by Mark Trevelyan