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PARIS (AP) — The French voted Sunday in an election that will decide whether centrist, pro-European Union President Emmanuel Macron retains his post or is ousted by far-right Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen in what amounts to a political earthquake.

Opinion polls in recent days gave Macron a solid and slightly growing lead, as analysts said that Le Pen, despite her efforts to soften her image and tone down some of her National Rally party’s policies, remained being unpleasant for many.

But a surprise victory for Le Pen cannot be ruled out. With polls showing neither candidate can command enough core supporters to win, much will depend on those still weighing anxiety over the implications of a far-right presidency against anger over Macron’s record since his 2017 election. .

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A Le Pen victory would mark a political upheaval for Western democracies on a par with Brexit or the US election of Donald Trump in 2016, ending decades of rule by top French leaders and the latest threat to the future of the European Union. .

The polls opened at 8 am (0600 GMT) and will close at 8 pm (1800 GMT). Initial projections from pollsters are expected as soon as the polls close.

By midday, some 26.4% of voters had cast their ballots, down two points from 2017, when the final turnout was already at its lowest point in nearly half a century.

Hugo Winter, a 26-year-old salesman from Paris, said he would be among those who wouldn’t bother to vote.

“I don’t see the point of choosing between two things that don’t match my ideas,” Winter said while doing some morning shopping. “We live in a parallel world. Politicians do not represent the people.

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In Douai, a mid-sized city in northern France where Le Pen edged out Macron in the first round of voting two weeks ago, retiree Andrée Loeuillet, 69, said she had voted for Macron, as she did on 10 of April.

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“It has its flaws but it also has qualities. He is the most indicated to continue, we are experiencing difficult times, ”he said.

Macron, 44, who won against Le Pen in the last presidential election five years ago, has warned of a “civil war” if Le Pen, whose policies include a ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public, is elected and called on Democrats. of all stripes to back it up.

Le Pen, 53, focused her campaign on the rising cost of living in the world’s seventh-largest economy, which many French say has been made worse by rising global energy prices. He has also focused on Macron’s abrasive leadership style, which he says shows an elitist contempt for ordinary people.

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“Sunday’s question is simple: Macron or France,” he said Thursday at a rally in the northern city of Arras.

I DON’T LIKE MACRON

Among the first voters in the town of Souille, near the northwestern city of Le Mans, civil servant Pascal Pauloin, 56, said he had voted for Le Pen out of disenchantment with Macron.

“Frankly, I am very disappointed. Our France has not functioned well for years. Macron has done nothing for the middle classes and the gap with the rich is getting wider,” he said.

Le Pen, who has also been criticized by Macron for her past admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, rejects the accusations of racism. She said her plans to give French citizens priority for social housing and jobs and eliminate a series of social benefits for foreigners would benefit all French people, regardless of their religion or origin.

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Jean-Daniel Levy of pollster Harris Interactive said opinion polls showed Le Pen was unlikely to win because that would require big shifts in voter intentions.

If Macron prevails, he will face a difficult second term, without the grace period he enjoyed after his first victory, and there are likely to be protests over his plan to continue pro-business reforms, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 65 years old.

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If she removes him, Le Pen would seek to make sweeping changes to France’s domestic and international policies, and street protests could begin immediately. The shock waves would be felt throughout Europe and beyond.

Whoever emerges victorious, a first major challenge will be winning parliamentary elections in June to secure a viable majority to implement their programs.

(Additional reporting by Michel Rose, Leigh Thomas, and Gus Trompiz; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark John, Frances Kerry, and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Reference-nationalpost.com

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