The French voted on Sunday in elections that will decide whether their president, the centrist and pro-European Emmanuel Macronkeep your job or be unseated by the far-right eurosceptic Marine LePenin what would be a political earthquake.

Opinion polls in recent days gave Macron a solid and slightly upward lead as, according to analysts, Le Pen – despite her efforts to soften her image and some of her party’s policies – National Group— remains an unpalatable candidate for many.

However, a surprise victory for Le Pen is not ruled out. Polls show neither candidate has enough grassroots supporters to win, so much will depend on those still weighing anxiety over the implications of a far-right presidency against anger over Macron’s record. since his election in 2017.

A victory for Le Pen would be a political upheaval for Western democracies at the height of the Brexit or the choice of donald trump in USA in 2016, and would pose a new threat to the future of the European Union.

The polls opened at 8:00 a.m. local time (06:00 GMT) and will close at 8:00 p.m. (18:00 GMT). At 15:00 GMT, participation was 63.23%, according to figures from the Ministry of Interiorbelow the 65.30% registered at the same time in the 2017 elections.

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

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

In Douai, a medium-sized city in northern France where Le Pen beat Macron in the first round of elections two weeks ago, retiree Andrée Loeuillet, 69, said she voted for the president, as did the April 10th.

“He has his flaws, but he also has qualities. He is the most suitable to continue, we are living in difficult times,” he said.

Macron, 44, who beat Le Pen in the last presidential election Five years ago, he has warned of a “civil war” if Le Pen – whose policies include a ban on wearing Muslim headscarves in public – is elected and has called on Democrats of all stripes to support him.

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Le Pen, 53, has focused her campaign on the rising cost of living in the world’s seventh-largest economy, which many French say has worsened with rising prices. world energy prices. She has also focused on Macron’s abrasive leadership style, which she says shows an elitist contempt for ordinary people.

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

The abstentionist unknown

The polling stations will close at 20:00 (18:00 GMT), after which the results will be known. Le Pen could become the first female president or Macron the first to be re-elected from the conservative Jacques Chirac (1995-2007).

In case of reaching the Elysee, the RN candidate plans to visit symbolic places in the capital such as the Arch of Triumph Hello Place de la Concorde. Macron for his part plans to address his supporters at the Mars fieldat the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

The abstention is announced as one of the main unknowns of the ballot, especially when the disenchantment of having to vote again between Macron and Le Pen spreads among part of the electorate, especially young people and the leftist voters. Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

According to the first estimates of the polling institutes, abstention will be around 28%, 2.5 points more than in 2017 and almost two points higher than the first round.

“It’s complicated, we’re voting a bit backwards for the second round, we have to say what it is. Unfortunately, in the first round it didn’t come out exactly what I wanted,” he told AFP Robin Darchicourtin the French archipelago of Guadeloupe.

On April 10, Mélenchon prevailed in this French Caribbean territory and came in third place in all of France with almost 22% of the vote. The two finalists winked at their constituents throughout the campaign to try to mobilize and engage them.

Le Pen opted to appear as the defender of purchasing power, against a rival who, in her opinion, despises the popular classes. Macron made an effort to dismantle the program of his rival and warn of the danger of the arrival of the extreme right to power.

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“We could reach the record for the fewest number of votes in a presidential election,” he told the newspaper on Saturday. liberation the political scientist Bruno Cautresfor whom the final abstention of left-wing voters “would not reverse the trend” in favor of Macron.

“Regardless of the winner, the country will be more difficult to govern in the next five years,” political scientist Chloé Morin told AFP. One of the keys will be in the legislative elections that will be held on June 12 and 19.

According to a BVA poll on Friday, 66% want Macron to lose his parliamentary majority. The last “cohabitation” dates back to the period from 1997 to 2002, when Chirac appointed the socialist Lionel Jospin as prime minister.

Antipathy for 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 been working well for years. Macron has done nothing for the middle classes and the gap with the rich is getting bigger and bigger,” he said.

Le Pen, who has also been criticized by Macron for her past admiration for the Russian president Vladimir PutinHe rejects the accusations of racism. He said his plans to prioritize French citizens for the social housing and employment and eliminating a series of social benefits for foreigners would benefit all French people, regardless of their religion or origin.

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

If Le Pen unseats Macron, she will try to introduce radical changes in France’s domestic and international politics. Street protests could begin immediately, and shock waves would be felt throughout Europe and beyond.

Whoever wins, the first big challenge will be to win the parliamentary elections in June to secure a viable majority to implement their programs.

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