Macron and Le Pen are running in the French presidential election, while voters are going to the polls

Paris – France voted in one re-election to the presidency Sunday with consequences for the future of Europe, where the sitting center Emmanuel Macron is the frontrunner, but who is fighting against a tough challenge from the far right rival Marine Le Pen.

Centrist Macron is asking voters to trust him for another five-year term, despite a presidency plagued by protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. A Macron victory in this vote would make him the first French president in 20 years to win another term.

The result of the vote in France, a nuclear-armed nation with one of the world’s largest economies, could also affect the conflict in Ukraineen France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and support for sanctions against Russia.

Le Pen’s support in the French electorate has grown during this campaign to her highest level ever, and much will depend on Sunday on how many people turn out to vote. The turnout was 26.1% at noon, slightly higher than at the same time in vote in the first round April 10.

Many of those expected to choose Macron do so to keep Le Pen and ideas out as too extreme and anti-democratic, such as her plan to ban the Muslim headscarf in public or her ties to Russia.

“I’m calm,” she said as she cast her vote in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont. “I trust the French.” She took selfies with fans as Macron greeted the audience with handshakes and embraces in the coastal town of Le Touquet on the English Channel.

APTOPIX French presidential election
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the ballot box at a polling station in Le Touquet, France, on Sunday, April 24, 2022.

Gonzalo Fuentes / AP

Both candidates are trying to woo left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon’s 7.7 million votes, which were defeated in the first round on 10 April.

For many who voted for left-wing candidates in the first round, the round presents a tasteless choice between a nationalist in Le Pen and a president whom some feel has turned right in his first term. The outcome may depend on how left-wing voters decide: between supporting Macron or abstaining and letting him stand up to Le Pen.

When she voted west of Paris in the suburb of Le Pecq, Stephanie David cast her vote for Macron “without much joy.” She had voted for the Communist Party candidate in the first round.

“It was the least worst choice,” the transport logistics employee said. Le Pen was horrible to her: “Even though she’s trying to soften her rhetoric, I can not stand it.”

All opinion polls in recent days are converging towards a victory for the 44-year-old pro-European Macron – however, the margin varies greatly compared to his 53-year-old right-wing extremist rival. Opinion polls also predict a possibly record number of people who will either cast a blank ballot or not vote at all.

Retiree Jean-Pierre Roux voted to keep Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie out of circulation in 2002 and again against his daughter in 2017. But Roux could not bring himself to vote Macron again this time. He put an empty envelope in the ballot box. He said he considered Macron too arrogant to vote for again, citing a common complaint from the president, which Le Pen also reiterated.

“I’m not against his ideas, but I can not stand the person,” he said.

Le Pen has sought to appeal to working-class voters struggling with rising prices amid the aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine – an approach that even Macron acknowledged has resonated with the general public. She said it would be her priority to reduce the cost of living if she was elected as France’s first female president, and she presented herself as the candidate for voters who were unable to cope.

French presidential candidates in 2022 cast their vote in the last round of elections
French right-wing extremist National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen leaves a polling station after casting her vote in the second round of the April 24, 2022 presidential election in Henin-Beaumont, France.

Getty Images

She says Macron’s presidency has left the country deeply divided. She has repeatedly referred to the so-called Yellow West protest movement, which shook his government before the COVID-19 pandemic, with months of violent demonstrations against his economic policies, which some believed hurt the poorest.

France’s presidential campaign has been particularly challenging for voters of immigrant heritage and religious minorities, particularly because of Le Pen’s proposed policies targeting Muslims.

Macron has also proclaimed his environmental and climate achievements in an effort to attract young voters who are popular with far-left candidates. Citizens and especially millennials voted in droves on Melenchon. Many young voters are particularly committed to climate issues.

Although Macron was associated with the slogan “Make The Planet Great Again”, he capitulated in his first five-year term to the Yellow West protesters by scrapping a tax increase on fuel prices. Macron has said his next prime minister will be in charge of environmental planning as France seeks to become CO2 neutral by 2050.

Le Pen, once considered a climate skeptic, wants to scrap subsidies for renewable energy. She promised to dismantle wind farms and invest in nuclear and hydropower.

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