Voting underway in French presidential election

People across France went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new President in the first round of the election.

Voting began at 8 a.m. (local time) in Metropolitan France, Xinhua news agency reported.

As for French overseas territories, voters already cast their ballots on Saturday.

If none of the 12 eligible candidates, including President Emmanuel Macron who is seeking a second term receive an absolute majority of votes on Sunday, a run-off will be held on April 24 between the top two contenders.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), 48.8 million French citizens are registered to vote in this year’s elections.

Of them, 47.05 million have registered on municipal lists and 1.43 million registered overseas on consular lists.

According to a survey on voting intentions published on April 6 by market research firm Ipsos, Macron should be leading the first round, followed by Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party and Jean-Luc Melenchon, who leads the left-wing La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) party.

An opinion poll published by BFM TV on April 7, quoted by Reuters, gave Macron 26 per cent support to Le Pen’s 25 per cent in the first round.

It’s Macron’s hope and expectation that most of the other votes will transfer to him in the decisive phase.

On April 8, the President, no-holds-barred, said: “She (Le Pen) lies to the people.”

He added the far-right was about “rejection of the (French) Republic”, “anti-Semitism” and “xenophobia”.

The other candidates in the election include Eric Zemmour, a former journalist, TV commentator and best-selling author with hard anti-Islam and anti-immigration views; Valerie Pecresse of the right-of-centre Republicans, known as Gaullists after its founder Charles de Gaulle; and Anne Hidalgo, a former mayor of Paris, of the Socialist Party, which is a shadow of its erstwhile self.

As France is witnessing another surge in Covid-19 cases, the Interior Ministry has announced a health protocol for the polling stations.

According to the Ministry, a vaccine pass or a negative Covid-19 test result will not be required for those entering the polling stations.

The wearing of face masks and social distancing will not be mandatory, but will be recommended for the elderly, the vulnerable and coronavirus positive individuals.

The official preliminary results from the first round will be announced on Sunday night or Monday morning after verification by the Interior Ministry.

No candidate has won the French presidency in the first round since the Fifth French Republic switched to universal suffrage for presidential elections.

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