PARIS ( Associated Press) – French voters turned on Sunday in a presidential election that has wide-ranging implications for the future of Europe, with President Emmanuel Macron considered at the fore but facing a tough challenge from far-right rival Marine Le Pen. have to face.
The centrist Macron is asking voters to count on him for a second five-year term despite a presidency that has been troubled by protests, the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine. Macron’s victory in this vote would make him the first French president to win a second term in 20 years.
Sunday’s outcome in France, a nuclear-armed nation with one of the world’s largest economies, could also affect the war in Ukraine, as France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and against Russia for an invasion of its neighbor. Strongly supported the sanctions.
All recent opinion polls seem to converge towards a victory for Macron, 44, a pro-European-year-old – yet the odds vary widely over his 53-year-old far-right rival. The poll also predicted a potentially record-high number of people who would either cast a blank vote or not vote at all.
Le Pen’s support for French voters has risen to its all-time high during the campaign, and much will depend on how many people turn up to vote on Sunday. Participation at midday was 26.1%, slightly higher than the first round of voting on 10 April.
Many of those hoping to elect Macron are doing so mainly to keep out Le Pen, whose platform is seen as extreme and undemocratic, such as his plan to publicly ban Muslim headscarves. . Macron has questioned his party’s ties with Russia.
“I’m cool,” said Le Pen as he voted in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont and took selfies with fans. “I trust the French.”
Meanwhile, Macron greeted the crowd in the English Channel coastal town of Le Touquet by shaking hands and hugging.
Both candidates are trying to court the 7.7 million supporters of leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was among 10 other presidential candidates in the first round of voting on April 10.
For many who voted for leftist candidates in the first round, the runoff presents an irreconcilable choice between Le Pen, a far-right, anti-immigrant nationalist, and Macron, a leader who some feel is his own. Turned to the right in the first round. period. The outcome could depend on whether left-wing voters support Macron or abstain from voting, leaving him to defend himself against Le Pen.
Voting west of Paris in the suburb of Le Peque, Stephanie David voted for Macron “without any joy”. He had voted for the Communist Party candidate in the first round.
“It was at least the worst option,” said the transport worker, who said Le Pen was a curse for him. “Even if she tries to soften her rhetoric, I can’t stomach it.”
Retired Jean-Pierre Roux voted for the 2002 presidency of France to exclude Le Pen’s ultra-right-wing father, Jean-Marie, and against his daughter in 2017. But Roux could not bring himself to vote for Macron again, this time saying he was too cocky. Roux put an empty envelope in the voting box.
“I’m not against his views, but I can’t stand that person,” he said.
Le Pen has sought to appeal to working-class voters battling rising prices amid the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine – a view that Macron also acknowledged has resonated among the public. She said that reducing the cost of living would be her priority if France’s first woman is elected as president, and she portrayed herself as a candidate for voters who were unable to make ends meet.
Le Pen says Macron’s presidency has left the country deeply divided, pointing to the yellow vest protest movement, which rocked his government before the COVID-19 pandemic, against economic policies With months of violent demonstrations, some hurt the poorest.
Macron has sought to appeal to voters of immigrant heritage and religious minorities, especially because of Le Pen’s proposed policies targeting Muslims and putting French citizens first for jobs and benefits.
Macron has also touted his environmental and climate achievements to attract young voters popular with far-left candidates. Many young French voters are particularly concerned with climate issues.
Although Macron was associated with the slogan “Make the Planet Great Again” in his first five-year term, he surrendered to angry yellow vest protesters by abolishing tax hikes on fuel prices. Macron has said his next prime minister will be put in charge of environmental planning as France seeks to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Le Pen, once considered a climate change skeptic, wants to end subsidies for renewable energy. He has vowed to dismantle wind farms and invest in nuclear and hydroelectric power.
John Leicester at Le Peque, Michelle Spingler at Henin-Beaumont and Alex Turnbull at Le Touquet contributed to this report.