France goes to the polls for the presidential election

French voters began casting their ballots on Sunday in the first round of a presidential election in which far-right leader Marine Le Pen is issuing a tough challenge to incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.

A victory for Le Pen, who is skeptical of the EU and NATO and has in the past boasted of his ties to Vladimir Putin, would send shockwaves through Europe and the world. at a time when the forces of the Russian president are waging a war on European soil. in Ukraine.

If she becomes president, Le Pen has also promised to implement more protectionist economic policies to favor French industry, crack down on Islamists and immigration, and ban women from wearing the veil in public on the grounds that it is is an “Islamist uniform”.

“Never has the prospect of real change been so close,” Le Pen told his cheering supporters at his final pre-Election Day rally, held in the far-right stronghold of Perpignan, where his former partner Louis Aliot is mayor. Campaigning was not permitted the day before the polls opened.

Le Pen hopes to emulate the nationalist triumphs of the UK’s referendum vote to leave the EU in 2016, and Donald Trump’s US election victory later that year. She clearly lost to liberal internationalist Macron in the 2017 election.

Macron’s predicted margin of victory this year has been steadily reduced in recent weeks, sending jitters through financial markets over the prospect of a eurosceptic nationalist taking charge of the EU’s second-largest economy.

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“Despite abandoning any explicit ‘Frexit’ plan, Le Pen would still completely transform France’s position within Europe,” Jessica Hinds, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said on Friday.

“At best, it would undermine and frustrate European policy-making and, at worst, seek to dismantle EU structures from within.”

The latest opinion polls published on Friday gave Macron 26.5% of voting intentions in the first round, against 23% for Le Pen and 16.5% for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Only two candidates will qualify for the second round on April 24. If, as expected, it is Macron and Le Pen, the polls give the incumbent president the advantage with a 53-47% lead over his rival – much narrower than his 66-year-old. 34% victory in 2017.

In all, 12 candidates are running for the presidential election, including five from the far left and three from the far right.

Two candidates who launched the campaign at the start of the campaign – Eric Zemmour, a far-right anti-immigration TV polemicist, and Valérie Pécresse, winner of the primary of the conservative Les Républicains party – have since fallen back in the polls below 10 for hundred. cent of voting intentions in the first round.

Anne Hidalgo, candidate of the Socialist Party and mayor of Paris, obtained only 2% of the votes in the first round in the polls.

This means that neither of the two political movements which gave France its presidents from 1958 until the arrival of Macron – the center-right Gaullist on the one hand, and the socialists on the other – have hardly lucky to see their candidate elected on April 24, although they may do better in the National Assembly elections in June.

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