French President Francois Hollande says that he has called centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron to congratulate him on his election victory.
Hollande says it shows that the overwhelming majority of voters rallied behind the European Union and openness to the world.
It was Hollande who first brought Macron, 39, into the world of politics, naming the untested ex-banker as economy minister.
But Macron left the position to found his own political movement last year, and has distanced himself from his former mentor.
With nearly 20 per cent of the votes counted, Macron had 60 per cent of the vote to 40 per cent for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, according to the Interior Ministry. The early results are primarily from provincial towns that lean more conservative than the cities, whose votes are counted later.