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Polls open as Emmanuel Macron battles Marine Le Pen


Paris: French citizens have begun voting in the presidential runoff election on Sunday with repercussions for Europe’s future, with centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron the front-runner but fighting a tough challenge from far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

The centrist Macron is asking voters to trust him for a second five-year term despite a presidency troubled by protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. A Macron victory in this vote would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.

A man casts his vote on Marseille on Sunday.

A man casts his vote on Marseille on Sunday. Credit:AP

The result of voting in France, a nuclear-armed nation with one of the world’s biggest economies, could also impact the conflict in Ukraine, as France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and support for sanctions against Russia.

Le Pen’s support in France’s electorate has grown during this campaign to her highest level ever, and much will depend on how many people turn out to vote. Many of those expected to choose Macron are doing so to keep out Le Pen and ideas seen as too extreme and anti-democratic, such as her plan to ban the Muslim headscarf in public, or her ties to Russia.

Both candidates are trying to court the 7.7 million votes of a leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, defeated in the first vote.

For many who voted for left-wing candidates in the first round April 10, this runoff vote presents an unpalatable choice between a nationalist in Le Pen, and a president who some feel has veered to the right during his first term. The outcome could depend on how left-wing voters make up their minds: between backing Macron or abstaining and leaving him to fend for himself against Le Pen.

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All opinion polls in recent days converge toward a win for the 44-year-old pro-European centrist — yet the margin over his 53-year-old nationalist rival varies broadly, from 6 to 15 percentage points, depending on the poll. Polls also forecast a possibly record-high number of people who will either cast a blank vote or not vote at all.

Earlier this week, Macron took the gloves in a two-hour-45-minute debate tearing into his far-right challenger as he seeks the votes he needs to win.



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