PARIS – Voter turnout is lower than usual in France’s presidential runoff Sunday, apparently reflecting voter frustration with both candidates, centrist President Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen.
Turnout at 5 p.m. Paris time (1500 GMT) stood at 63%, the Interior Ministry said. That was below the 65% at the same time in the last presidential runoff in 2017, when Macron overwhelmingly beat Le Pen, and the 72% in when Socialist Francois Hollande won the presidency in 2012.
Polls before Sunday’s election gave Macron a solid lead over Le Pen, but to keep it he needs the support of many left-wing voters who shunned both him and Le Pen in the first-round election on April 10. Many of those voters may choose to stay home this time instead.
Polling agency projections and early official results are expected after final voting stations close in France at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).
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Far-right leader Marine Le Pen went first, cheerily greeting election workers in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, in France’s struggling former industrial heartland. She emerged from the ballot booth beaming to drop it in a transparent box. Outside, she took selfies with supporters.
Then came incumbent Emmanuel Macron, who shook dozens of hands – and was handed a small child to hold up – on his journey from his family home in the resort town of Le Touquet on the English Channel to his voting station.
Inside, he greeted yet more people, posed for photographs with his wife Brigitte, and cast his ballot with a wink for the cameras. The voting booths were shielded by curtains in the red-white-and-blue of the French flag.
About 48.8 million voters are eligible to take part in the runoff, which is being watched around Europe. Early results are expected Sunday night.
The centrist Macron is asking voters to trust him for a second five-year term despite a presidency troubled by protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. A Macron victory in this vote would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.
The result of voting in France, a nuclear-armed nation with one of the world’s biggest economies, could also impact the conflict in Ukraine, as France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and support for sanctions against Russia.
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