Marine Le Pen votes in the first round of French presidential elections in Henin Beaumont
Emmanuel Macron is facing an unexpected threat from Marine Le Pen as voters head to the polls for the first round of the French presidential election today.
Opinion polls published before a campaign blackout had Mr Macron coming out on top – but showed the far-right leader of National Rally was closing the gap.
Other candidates in the race include far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, far-right Eric Zemmour who has faced ends for inciting both racial and religious hatred, and Anne Hildago, the mayor of Paris, for the Socialists.
Figures put turnout at 25 per cent by noon – a down from the last vote five years ago.
Voting started at 8am and will end at 7pm (5pm GMT) in most places and an hour later in larger cities, when first projections of results are expected.
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen
For months, the election seemed like a shoo-in for Emmanuel Macron. But now, it is being touted as a tossup with an unexpected threat from the far right’s Marine Le Pen.
The incumbent president is asking France’s 48 million voters for a second five-year term – but there are 11 other candidates and widespread voter apathy standing in his way.
Many French also blame Mr Macron for not doing enough to help them cope with the soaring costs of food, fuel and heating or accuse him of ignoring domestic concerns amid the war in Ukraine.
Ms Le Pen has been honored in on the day-to-day grievances of average voters. She has also softened her rhetoric de ella, but still targets immigrants and Muslims with policies, with proposals such as a ban Muslim headscarves in public places.
Additional reporting by AP
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 15:37
French community around world takes part in election
The French community across the world have also been heading to voting stations to cast their ballots.
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 15:10
French voting system
French voters are using the same system that’s been used for generations: paper ballots that are cast in person and counted by hand.
Despite periodic calls for more flexibility or modernization, France doesn’t do mail-in voting, early voting or use voting machines en masse like the United States.
More on this voting system here:
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 14:59
Voters are sharing that they have cast their ballot on social media, with many using the hashtag #jevote.
Here is Formula 2 racing driver Theo Pourchaire:
A former minister of the environment, who says “five minutes for five years”:
“It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s useful, it’s important”
“First presidential election: have voted!”
“Have voted (with intelligence and style)”
“Today is the first time I have voted in a presidential election”
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 14:40
Macron v Pen in the 2017 election
The 2017 election ended up with these two going head-to-head in the final round. Emmanuel Macron won and has been French president since.
Here is a reminder of what happened last time, as reported by Kim Sengupta in Paris:
France defeats the populist revolution with Macron win
French President-elect has warned the UK can expect no concessions in the Brexit negotiations if he is elected, vowing to hold a rigid line on access to the EU’s single market and the powers of the European court
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 14:30
Emmanuel Macron and the unexpected threat from Marine Le Pen
Until just weeks ago, opinion polls pointed to an easy win for Emmanuel Macron, who was boosted by his active diplomacy over Ukraine, a strong economic recovery and the weakness of a fragmented opposition.
However, Marine Le Pen has been posing an unexpected threat to his re-election hopes in recent weeks.
The incumbent centrist president entered late into the campaign, with only one major rally that even his supporters found underwhelming. This, along with his focus on an unpopular plan to increase the retirement age, have dented his ratings of him.
Ms Le Pen has been boosted by a months-long focus on cost of living issues and a big drop in support for her rival on the far-right, Eric Zemmour.
Opinion polls published before a campaign blackout that started at midnight still had Mr Macron leading the first round – and also winning the second round against Ms Le Pen.
But those same polls said it would be tight, as Le Pen narrowed the gap, with some even seeing her victory within the margin of error.
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 14:15
Marine Le Pen shares image of her voting
And so does Marine Le Pen:
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 14:05
Macron casts vote
Emmanuel Macron tells his Twitter followers he has voted:
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 13:58
Macron kisses people on head as he leaves polling station
Emmanuel Macron spoke to people as he left the polling station where he cast his vote in northern France today, even kissing some on the head.
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 13:49
What are the candidate policies?
Emmanuel Macron is the frontrunner in the presidential race and is facing 11 challengers from across the political spectrum.
Here is what the main candidates are proposing:
Emmanuel Macron, La Republique En Marche
- Progressively raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 and increase the minimum monthly pension
- Six new-generation nuclear reactors, develop solar energy and wind farms at sea.
- Strengthening external borders of the European passport-free area and creating a new force to better control national borders
- Speed up processing of asylum and residence permit applications and to deport those who aren’t eligible.
Marine Le Pen, National Rally
- Ending family reunification policies, restrict social benefits to the French only and deport foreigners who stay unemployed for over a year and other migrants who entered illegally
- Cut taxes on energy and essential goods
- Keep the minimum retirement age at 62 and raise the minimum pension
- Dismantle windfarms and invest in nuclear and hydro energy
- A law banning Muslim headscarves in all public places, and outlawing events and financing considered to be spreading “Islamism”
Jean-Luc Melenchon, La France Insoumise
- Raise France’s minimum wage and minimum pension
- Raise minimum pension and lower the retirement age to 60
- Re-establish a wealth tax
- A “green rule” in the Constitution which calls for not using more resources than nature can replenish
- Curb greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent in 2030 instead of the current goal of 40 per cent
- Phase out nuclear energy and aim for 100 per cent renewable energy
Eric Zemmour, Reconquete
- Pull out of NATO’s military command
- Asylum status to be restricted to no more than 100 people per year, end welfare benefits for non-European foreigners and ban immigration for family reunification
- Coast guard military force to stop arrivals by sea
- Ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in all public spaces, a ban on building big mosques and on foreign financing of the Muslim faith
- Restricting the names that parents can give their newborns, de facto banning many names used by French Muslims
- Cut taxes on businesses, low-income workers, retired people with small pensions and to give families a bonus for children born in rural areas
- End to all windfarms
Valerie Pecresse, The Republicans
- Ban on Muslim headscarves for young girls and in sports clubs and ban on burkini in swimming pools
- Immigration quotas
- Housing and family benefits would be granted to foreigners only five years after they arrive legally in the country
- No residence permit would be provided for migrants who enter without prior permission.
- Cut taxes on businesses and workers
- Raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 by 2030
- Develop nuclear energy and renewable energy, but with restrictions on wind farms.
Zoe Tidmann10 April 2022 13:38
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.