French voters brace for the last round of Macron vs Le Pen
After a turbulent campaign in which the French far-right came closest to seizing power, France votes in presidential elections on Sunday, with a clear choice between centrist President Emmanuel Macron and opponent Marine Le Pen.
After French President, Emmanuel Macron accused Le Pen of racism, with the latter accusing the French president of not liking the French, the two will face off in the final race to determine who will reside in the Elysee.
Macron enters the election with a solid lead over Le Pen in polls, an advantage he maintained in the last days of campaigning. Nevertheless, analysts have warned that polls are not the deciding factor in the race, and turnout would be critical.
In mid-April, voter turnout in the first round of elections had a lower rate than in the 2017 election at 25.5%.
In 2017 the rate was 28.5%.
According to pollsters and commentators, a majority of French citizens believe the 2022 presidential election campaign was of poor quality and never really got off the ground.
Polls in mainland France will open at 0600 GMT on Sunday and end 12 hours later, shortly followed by forecasts that generally accurately anticipate the outcome. Some overseas territories opened polls earlier to account for time differences.
France has 48.7 million eligible voters.
Analysts predict that abstention rates will range between 26% and 28%.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who finished third in the first round of voting on April 10, has refused to persuade his millions of supporters to support Macron while asking they not vote for Le Pen.
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According to Martial Foucault, head of the CEVIPOF political studies center, the higher the percentage of abstention, the closer the gap between Macron and Le Pen will get.
Early turnout indicators from overseas territories, whose average earnings are lower than in mainland France and which typically supported Melenchon in the first round, will be keenly studied.
Left-leaning EU leaders have urged the French not to vote for Le Pen and backed Macron.
Le Pen has maintained a stance against Macron's plans for harsher integration in the EU, vowing to modify France's presence in the block with her opponents calling the notion "Frexit."
If Le Pen is victorious, she will be France's first female president and if Macron wins, he would be the first president to be re-elected in 20 years since Jacques Chirac in 2002.