Bob Edme / AP
PARIS – France began voting in a presidential election Sunday in a race between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen.
Macron is in pole position to win re-election for another five-year term in the country’s presidential election, but his lead over Le Pen depends on a major uncertainty: voters who could decide to stay home.
A Macron victory in this vote – which could have far-reaching consequences for Europe’s future direction and Western efforts to stop the war in Ukraine – would make him the first French president in 20 years to win another term.
All opinion polls in recent days are converging towards a victory for the 44-year-old pro-European centrist – yet the margin in relation to his 53-year-old nationalist rival varies widely, from 6 to 15 percentage points, depending on the opinion poll. Opinion polls also predict a possibly record number of people who will either cast a blank ballot or not vote at all.
Both candidates are trying to woo the 7.7 million votes of a left-leaning candidate who was defeated in the first ballot. The polls opened at 8 a.m. Sunday and close at 7 p.m. in most places, except for big cities that have chosen to keep the stations open until 8 p.m.
For many who voted for left-wing candidates in the first round on April 10, this vote presents a distasteful 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.