Emmanuel Macron is expected to face stiff competition from the right-wing National Rally party’s leader, Marine Le Pen
The first round of the French presidential election kicked off on Sunday, with citizens in the country’s overseas territories casting their ballots on Saturday. According to opinion polls, out of the 12 candidates, the incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, and the National Rally party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, will most likely make it to the second round of the vote on April 24.
The polling stations will close around 1800 GMT. There are expected to be the first exit polls shortly after. Experts warn of low turnout with low-income and younger voters more likely to vote no.
Analysts believe that Macron was in control of the situation until recent times. However, the combination of many factors including his plans to raise the retirement age and rising inflation as well as his late formal entry to the race has dwindled support.
Marine Le Pen was his main opponent and actively visited France to criticize the government’s inexorable living costs. Speaking in front of supporters on Thursday, Le Pen urged them to vote and to administer the “Fair punishment for those who have wrongly governed us.”
In the immediate run-up to the election, the sitting president repeatedly claimed Le Pen’s political program was “racist” and aimed to “Divide the society” – which the National Rally leader has vehemently denied.
Macron warned his supporters at the rally that Macron could be elected as their candidate. “Take a look at the outcome of Brexit and other election results: What seemed impossible actually occurred.”
Twelve candidates are vying for France’s top job. Half the candidates have been involved in previous presidential elections. Macron and Le Pen crossed swords in 2017. Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a veteran politician who hopes to spoil the expected Macron-Le Pen rematch and make it to the final round. His supporters asked left-leaning voters for support around the fiery socialist. The far-left candidate Philippe Poutou is also running, as well as socialist Nathalie arthaud and Anne Hidalgo. They are the socialist mayor, Yannick Jadot from the Greens and Fabienroussel of the Communist Party.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum are nationalist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, center-right ruralist Jean Lassalle, Valérie Pécresse, the conservative head of the Paris region, and Eric Zemmour, a TV personality turned-right-wing politician, who has surged in popularity with his anti-immigration rhetoric. Zemmour, according to opinion polls has not been able to unseat Le Pen, the most populous candidate of the right.
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