(Update 1: Adds Macron, Le Pen casting ballots, edits throughout)
Paris, Apr 10 (EFE).- French voters were casting their ballots on Sunday in the first round of a presidential election pitting incumbent president Emmanuel Macron against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
There are a total of 12 candidates in the fray for the election with 48.8 million eligible voters.
If none of the candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top will head to a second round on April 24.
Macron and Le Pen are widely expected to head to a runoff, since no French presidential candidate has won in the first round under the current system.
The two leading contenders cast their ballots in their home constituencies on Sunday.
The 44-year-old centrist Macron, together with his wife, Brigitte, cast their votes in the northern seaside town of Le Touquet, where he was welcomed by tens of supporters at the polling station.
National Rally leader Le Pen, 55, voted at a polling station in her party’s stronghold of Henin-Beaumont in northern France.
The latest polls indicate that Macron is expected to win between 26 and 27 percent of the vote, with Le Pen receiving 24 percent. In 2017, Macron beat Le Pen by three points.
In a projected second round, polls give Macron a second term in office, but with just a two or three-point advantage over Le Pen, compared to five years ago when he won 66 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 34.
By noon, 25.48% of registered French voters had cast their ballots, a lower turnout than at the same time in 2017 when it was 28.54%, according to the French interior ministry.
Estimated results will not be made available until the last polling booth in mainland France has closed at 8pm. EFE