Polling stations open in France’s decisive Macron-Le Pen duel

Paris, Apr 24 (EFE).- Some 70,000 polling stations opened Sunday in France for the second round of the presidential elections with the duel between the candidate for re-election, Emmanuel Macron, and the far-right Marine Le Pen.

Almost 49 million French people are called to cast their ballots from 8:00 a.m. local time (6:00 GMT) and until 8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT), when the last schools close.

At that time, the demographic institutes will disclose estimates based on the real vote count that will have begun in a series of tables considered as a whole representative of the entire country. Unless the result is very tight, those estimates will reveal the winner.

Fifteen days after the first round, which ended with Macron in first position with 27.8 percent of the vote, four percentage points more than Le Pen, voters only have the option between the two finalists, who repeated the duel five years ago.

All the polls predict a victory for the current president, although with a much lower difference than the one he achieved in 2017, when he doubled his rival in votes (66.1 percent compared to 33.90 percent.)

The latest polls published Friday gave him the win with a range of between 53.5 percent and 57.5 percent of votes, although the number of undecided is high. A high rate of abstention is expected, which could be even higher than that of the first round, when one in four registered in the census did not go to the polls.

Unlike what he did at the beginning of the campaign, Macron for this second round has been fully involved and managed to expand the gap between him and Le Pen, according to polls.

The president, who aspires to be the first to be re-elected without a cohabitation (a government of a different political color than his), said he was wary of the risk of overconfidence. He compared it to the 2015 Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the election of United States former President Donald Trump the following year.

In the last 15 days, he has made an effort to underline the risks the election of Le Pen would entail, which he said would fracture French society with attacks on immigrants or project to ban the Islamic headscarf in the streets. He said it would mean France leaving the European Union, because it would make national law prevail over community law and cut the French contribution to the budget.

The far-right candidate made harsh accusations against Macron’s plan to delay the retirement age until 65 years and with criticism of her “arrogant” and “haughty” attitude.

She herself has presented herself as the spokesperson for the people, she has defended her tax cuts on fuel and a hundred basic products to counteract inflation and has promised to protect the French against globalization, unlike her rival, whom accuses of being “the candidate of the elites.”

A strategy that has placed him closer than ever to victory, but according to the polls he is still below 50 percent of the vote. EFE


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