Polls open in historic French presidential election

Centrist independent Emmanuel Macron projected to beat far-right opponent Marine Le Pen

Polls open in historic French presidential election

World Bulletin / News Desk

Voters are heading to the polls Sunday to choose between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen to become the nation’s president in one of the most divisive contests in decades. 

Approximately 45.7 million voters in mainland France and overseas are eligible to vote, and for the first time since 1974 neither presidential candidate is from a mainstream party.

Polls are due to close between 7 p.m. local time (1700GMT) and 8 p.m. (1800GMT) in some large cities, with results expected to be announced in the immediate hours that follow.

Voters in overseas territories began casting their ballots Saturday.

If the latest polls hold true, Macron will emerge as the holder of the office for the next five-year term.

But fear of low voter turnout, particularly among leftist voters who refuse to choose between the two opponents, has raised the risk of a possible a defeat for Macron.

Approximately 25 percent of the electorate are likely to abstain, according to an Odoxa poll published Friday.

Turnout was close to 78 percent in the first round of balloting. Macron won with 24.01 percent of the vote. Le Pen finished second with 21.30 percent.

Following the results, Le Pen temporarily stepped aside from the leadership of the far-right National Front (FN) party in an attempt to reach out to a broader spectrum of voters. She is the daughter of the party’s co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The 48-year-old lawyer’s seeks to block legal and illegal immigration, cease the admittance of refugees, leave the EU and reintroduce the franc.

She vowed to hold a national referendum on leaving the EU and the Schengen border-free area by September. 

Macron, a former investment banker who founded his own political movement, En Marche!, or On the Move!, in April last year, says the far-right leader wants to take France back to the 1950s while he wants to pull it into the 21st century.

The 39-year-old former economy minister, who has never before run for elected office, is ardently pro-EU and has praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for taking in over a million refugees.

"We are not looking to adapt or reform, but to transform," Macron has vowed.

In their last head-to-head televised debate, Le Pen described her opponent as a shameless "darling of the system", a heartless and unpatriotic capitalist and a cold banker guided by outgoing President Francois Hollande.

Macron struck back at Le Pen, calling her a ”self-serving liar" with no program and a dangerous extremist who wants to start a civil war in the country.

He described her as the candidate of fear and lies and accused her of imitating her father.

The centrist Macron has received the backing of several national and international political figures during the final week of campaigning, most recently from former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The frontrunner’s campaign said Friday it had been the victim of an anonymous massive and coordinated hack as thousands of emails and electronic documents, mixed with false ones, were released online.

The documents were published late Friday, just hours before the beginning of an official ban on campaigning that lasts until polls close Sunday.

France's election campaign commission on Saturday urged the media and citizens "not to relay” the contents of the leaked documents "in order not to alter the sincerity of the vote” and warned that violators could be committing a "criminal offense".

France's new president will be formally confirmed by mid-May.

The presidential vote will then be followed by two-round legislative elections in June.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Mayıs 2017, 10:13