France votes with Macron seeking new term in tight election

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron faces a tough test on Sunday as he seeks re-election in a vote that is widely expected to set off a close duel with the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Some 48.7 million voters are eligible to vote in the election after an unusual campaign was overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which analysts warn could lead to unpredictable results. , especially if voter turnout is low.
Early signs suggest mid-afternoon voter turnout is 4 percentage points lower than in the same period in 2017, suggesting participation may be the lowest since 2002, when record numbers of people turned out. France stay away.
Polls predict that Macron will lead Le Pen by a few percentage points in the first round, with the top two going through a second round vote on April 24.
Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is trailing on their heels in third place and still fantasizing about the chance to reach the second round at the expense of Le Pen or even – what would be an anomaly – himself. Macron.
Macron voted in Le Touquet on the north coast of France, with his wife Brigitte, around lunchtime.
Le Pen cast her vote in Henin-Beaumont, also in the north of the country, while Melenchon cast her vote in the southern port city of Marseille.
Although her opponents accuse her of being an extremist intent on dividing society, Le Pen with some success has sought to project a more moderate image and concern herself with everyday concerns. voter’s day as prices soar.
By contrast, Macron has campaigned relatively sparingly, by claiming to have entered the election campaign later than he would have liked due to the war in Ukraine.
French TV channels will broadcast final results predictions, generally with high accuracy, as soon as the polls close at 1800 GMT.
If Macron and Le Pen reach the second round as forecast, analysts predict that their clash will be much closer than in 2017, when the incumbent president beat his opponent with 66% of the vote. elected.
“There is uncertainty,” said political scientist Pascal Perrineau, pointing to a large number of voters who remained undecided or who changed their minds during the campaign, as well as absentee voters. .
According to the Home Office, participation was at 65% at 1500 GMT with three hours of voting remaining, down 4.4 percentage points from the same period in 2017.
Pollsters forecast that voter turnout will finally fall sharply in 2017, though likely above the record low turnout of just under 73% in the first round in 2002.
In Pantin, a suburb of Paris, Blandine Lehout, a 32-year-old actress, said no candidate deserved her vote.
“For the first time in my life I didn’t vote,” she said. “I’m going to vote in the parliamentary election (June), but in this election I hate them all. We’re at the stage where they scare me.”
But Michele Monnier, 77, got up early to vote: “Women of my generation fought for the right to vote, so whatever the election, I’m going to vote.”
The stakes are high for Macron, who came to power at the age of 39 as France’s youngest president with a pledge to rock the country.
He will be the first French president to win a second term since Jacques Chirac in 2002.
If he does, he will have five more years to push through reforms including raising the pension age from 62 to 65, despite union resistance.
He will also seek to cement his number one spot among European leaders following the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Le Pen victory would be seen as a victory for right-wing populism, adding to last weekend’s election victories by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic, both of whom have close ties. with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The candidates of France’s traditional parties, the right-wing Republicans and the left-wing Socialists, are facing defeat if the polls prove to be correct.
Republican Valerie Pecresse and clearly Socialist nominee Anne Hidalgo looked certain to be out in the first round, as did Republican candidate Yannick Jadot.
Eric Zemmour, the former left-wing TV pundit who had a great run into the campaign last year but then lost his position and analysts say he actually supported Le Pen by making her appear out more peaceful.

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