French citizens living in Singapore cast their final votes for president yesterday in what they said was a crucial election for the future of their country.
All 12 people The Straits Times spoke to outside the French Embassy said they had voted for centrist Emmanuel Macron over far- right leader Marine Le Pen in the run-off election after none of the 11 candidates in the first round of voting on April 23 got more than 50 per cent of the vote needed.
Mr Macron, a former investment banker and economy minister, is favoured to win, with the latest polls showing him take the lead with about 63 per cent. If elected, Mr Macron, 39, would become the youngest president in French history.
Ms Christiane Joussemet, 58, was one of the first to cast their votes when the polls opened at 8am.
Like several others, she was worried that Ms Le Pen, 48, might end up with a surprise win, like how United States President Donald Trump triumphed over the pundits' favourite and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the US presidential polls last November.
"What is at stake is the soul of our country - liberty, equality, fraternity - this is not what Le Pen's proposals stand for. She has extreme views and is more isolationist," said the customer satisfaction manager.
There are about 14,500 French citizens registered with the embassy in Singapore, of which 8,646 are registered to vote here.
Of the 6,524 valid votes cast here in the first round, 47.2 per cent were for Mr Macron, while the Republican party's candidate Francois Fillon garnered 37.1 per cent and Ms Le Pen just 2.6 per cent.
But results of the first-round voting in France showed Mr Macron finishing first with 24.01 per cent of the votes, while Ms Le Pen came in second with 21.3 per cent.
Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen represent the En Marche! and National Front parties, respectively; neither of France's major parties - the Republicans or Socialists - made it to the second round of voting.
Banker Marc Tassilly, 42, said: "I'm not surprised that there are no traditional party members in the run-off. People are voting to show their disappointment."
About half of the voters The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said they had cast their votes for other candidates in the first round, but opted for Mr Macron this time to avoid a Le Pen presidency.
Many were confident of his win, despite the leak of about 9GB of e-mails last Friday said to contain both real and fake documents which Mr Macron's campaign claimed was the result of a "massive" hack.
Voters said they were not concerned about its impact, though some worried about the turnout, with shorter queues at the embassy yesterday morning compared with the first round of voting, when waiting times were over an hour.
Ms Isabelle Persenda, 50, a volunteer helping with the voting logistics, said: "Maybe people are expecting Macron to win and are staying home. After what happened in the US election, I am worried about Le Pen winning."
Ms Persenda, who works in interior design, said she voted for Mr Macron in both rounds. "I like that he's a centrist, not conventional and has experience in the public and private sectors. I also like the fact that he's young - it's about time we put power in the hands of the youth."
Volunteer Geoffroy Ira, 36, said he was also backing the younger candidate, having been impressed by his background and lack of left-right ideology. The bank employee added: "Marine Le Pen is playing off people's fears. What happened with Trump and Brexit - we don't want this for our country."