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Marine Le Pen may be down after losing French election but she’s far from out, say analysts

Although defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen secured only around half of the votes won by France's president-elect, her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, many are describing Sunday's election result as a victory for her.

Le Pen's National Front party gained 10.58 million votes on Sunday, falling far short of Macron's winning 20.26 million.

Yet at the same time, Le Pen managed to increase her share of the vote from just over 21 percent to around 34 percent from the first to the second rounds of the election.

"Macron's strong performance exceeds forecasts but still shows that the National Front has again grown significantly as a political force," observed Citi analysts in a note to clients on Sunday.

This result represented around double the amount of votes that her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had achieved when he ran on behalf of the same party in 2002 - a comparison which some say demonstrates the momentum Marine Le Pen has generated and the potential for her far-right movement to continue to grow in impact and influence.

"This is a victory for Marine Le Pen…she has won tonight," claimed Jacques Rosselin, the director of L'école du nouveau journalisme who had personally voted for Macron, in speaking to CNBC on Sunday.

While the National Front looks as though it is here to stay, the election result will likely generate a contest over the strategic direction of the party going forward, suggests Emily Mansfield, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

"Marine Le Pen has been very clear about her desire to detoxify the National Front, to move it a bit closer to the mainstream and to become more electable," Mansfield told CNBC on Sunday.

"And I think she's proved today that she hasn't succeeded in this so this might well lead to more calls from people on the right side of the party to take a harder line on social issues and other concerns," she added.

Yet no-one was more determined about the need for the party to continue with its reinvention than Le Pen herself, who used her concession speech to vocalize her plans.

"The National Front ... must deeply renew itself in order to rise to the historic opportunity and meet the French people's expectations," Le Pen said.

"I will propose to start this deep transformation of our movement in order to make a new political force," she affirmed, with a senior aide adding that the party would potentially be renamed.

Thierry Chesnot | Stringer

While strong in relation to historic levels of support for the National Front, Le Pen's 11 million vote wins must be taken in the context of the highest ever level of voters supporting neither candidate, with around 16 million votes representing abstentions, spoiled or blank votes.

The outcome demonstrates the vast numbers of French who don't believe their politics to be adequately reflected by either candidate and shows the significant amount of political terrain still ripe for the taking.

"If Macron fails in assembling the political forces around free markets and company and business and if people are still hostile to his politics then she will win because she will catch all the anger that Macron will generate," he added, drawing attention to the swathes of voters who had moved from voting for the various centrist candidates in the first round to Macron – the only centrist candidate to remain in the final round.

According to Le Pen senior, his daughter's defeat was due to her recent agenda straying too far into the territory of the European Union, its currency and pensions, as he told French radio station RTL over the weekend.

"I think we must speak to France about the real problems, demographic problems, problems of mass immigration," he opined, adding that the party had to "remain true" to its core values.

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