France one step closer to new president

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, proposes a more disruptive programme of higher social spending than Mr Macron, who favours gradual economic deregulation. Mr Emmanuel Macron at a polling station
Mr Emmanuel Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France, yesterday. The centrist candidate is expected to emerge tops in the first round along with rival Marine Le Pen.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, proposes a more disruptive programme of higher social spending than Mr Macron, who favours gradual economic deregulation. Mr Emmanuel Macron at a polling station
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, proposes a more disruptive programme of higher social spending than Mr Macron, who favours gradual economic deregulation.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • The top two candidates in one of France's closest presidential election in years will be known after polling stations close early this morning, with Mr Emmanuel Macron and Ms Marine Le Pen expected to emerge winners.

A run-off will take place on May 7 between the last two contenders standing, provided none of the 11 candidates scores an absolute majority in the first round.

From Paris to Berlin, and Washington to Singapore, French voters lined up at polling stations yesterday to cast ballots, with the early turnout in France slightly down from the last election in 2012, amid fears that broad disillusionment with politics could keep voters away.

In London - often called the sixth biggest French city - hundreds of people queued up outside the two polling stations well before they opened yesterday, with some waiting up to two hours to vote.

And in Berlin, voters braved rain and hail in queues extending for up to 200m outside the French Embassy in the shadow of Brandenburg Gate.

Pollsters said jobs, the economy and general trustworthiness of politicians were voters' main concerns.

While centrist Mr Macron, 39, offers a vision of gradual economic deregulation that would cause few ripples in global financial markets, far-right leader Ms Le Pen, 48, proposes a more disruptive programme of higher social spending, financed by money-printing, coupled with a withdrawal from the euro and possibly the European Union.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'France one step closer to new president'. Print Edition | Subscribe