The French are all set to vote for the 12th presidential election that will take place on Sunday and April 24. The two-round majority ballot will elect the new president.
The French president is elected for a term of five years and the same president can be elected for a maximum of two consecutive terms.
Incumbent President Emmanuel Macron, 44, elected on May 7, 2017 as the youngest French president, is seeking a new mandate for a second term.
The latest elections seem to be identical to 2017, in terms of the two final candidates. Poll pundits predict a fierce clash between La Republique en Marche’s (LREM) Macron and National Rally’s Marine Le Pen.
In 2017, Macron won with 66.10% of the votes at the end of the second round against Le Pen’s 33.90% votes. In the first round, he had obtained 24.01% votes ahead of Le Pen’s 21.30%.
A BFMTV news exit poll published on Friday, 48 hours before the first round of voting, showed a neck-to-neck competition between Macron (26%) and Le Pen (25%). He is expected to win the second round with 51% against Le Pen at 49%.
This is the highest voting share ever for the right-wing candidate Le Pen, who is contesting for the third time. Studies and research have shown that France is increasingly bending to the right side of the political spectrum with the surge in voting intentions in favor of Le Pen and the Reconquest party’s Eric Zemmour.
Macron, who appears to be losing popularity in the closing hours of the final campaigning, declared on RTL news on Friday that “he never looked down on the French.” The London-based Financial Times wrote that Macron “inevitably provokes hatred” and “voters suspect, probably correctly, that he looks down on them.”
He is also facing a backlash over his handling of the COVID-19 health restrictions, vaccine campaign, the ongoing economic inflation, and the McKinsey consultancy firm scandal on tax evasion.
His statement of “I want to piss off the French” with regards to tightening restrictions for the unvaccinated people, was lapped up by political detractors who deemed him to be “anti-French.”
As Le Pen makes a steady advance, telling the voters she is ready to make history as the first female French president, Macron has appealed to voters to not elect “the heiress of a clan” whose manifesto he described is a “racist program.”
There are 12 final candidates vying for the presidency in the Elysee Palace.
According to the French Institute of Public Opinion poll, voting intentions for the first round are as follows:
Emmanuel Macron, 44, LAREM Party, Center: 26%
Le Pen, 53, National Rally, Far-Right: 24%
Jean-LucMelenchon, 70, Insoumise France, Far-Left: 17%
Eric Zemmour, 63, Reconquest, Far-Right: 9%
Valerie Pecresse, 54, The Republicans, Right: 9%
Yannick Jadot, 54, Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV), Left: 5%
Fabien Roussel Roussel, 52, French Communist Party (PCF), Far-Left: 2.5%
John Lassalle, 66, Let's Resist, Ruralist: 2.5%
Anne Hidalgo, 62, Socialist Party, Left: 2%
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, 61, Stand up France, Far-Right: 1.5%
Philippe Poutou, 55, New Anti-Capitalist Party, Far-Left: 1%
Nathalie Arthaud, 52, Workers' Struggle, Far-Left: 0.5%
France has around 48.7 million eligible voters that have registered to participate in the democratic exercise.
There are 47.05 million people registered in mainland France, and 1.65 million in the overseas territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia, while some of these overseas territories are set to vote a day earlier, on Saturday, due to time zone difference.
Voting will begin at 8 a.m. local time (0600GMT) on the mainland and end at 7 p.m (1700GMT), and 8 p.m. (1800GMT) in big cities.
Voters are not obligated to wear a mask or observe social distancing at the polling stations but are recommended to follow the restrictions the authorities require.
In 2017, of the total registered voters, 74.56% voted for the elections and the abstention rate was 25.44%. This year, the participation rate is expected to be lower, at 73%, and abstention higher, at 27%.
Vote by proxy, abroad
The French are given an exceptional right to vote by proxy -- if they cannot or choose not to participate in polling directly. Those that are expected to be absent due to work or health reasons can transfer the power of attorney to another elector to vote in their place.
The French living abroad can also visit the local French embassy or consulate for exercising their voting rights.
The Corsican political parties -- Core in Fronte and Corsica Libera -- have called for a boycott of the presidential election in response to Paris’ contempt towards their demand for independence, the Sud Ouest news reported.
No polling in Shanghai
Around 4,800 French people living in China’s Shanghai will be forced to stay away from polling due to lockdown restrictions amid COVID-19 cases.
The Chinese authorities have deemed it impossible to open the polling stations in Shanghai for the first round of the presidential election for the registered French electorates given the serious and complicated situation, the French Embassy in China announced.
Polling will be conducted elsewhere in Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Shenyang, and Hong Kong, as scheduled.
Results of the first round will start coming in shortly after the closure of the polls on Sunday.
The country’s top court, the Constitutional Council, will then validate the results and officially name the two qualifying finalists.
On April 24, the top contenders will face off in the second round.