Macron favorite as France votes for new president, early turnout low

May 7, 2017 - 11:53 PM
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France election day 2017
2017 Election Day in France. Reuters photograph extracted from video

PARIS/BRUSSELS – French voters were choosing on Sunday between a young, pro-European Union centrist and a eurosceptic, anti-immigration far-rightist for their next president, with early figures indicating a relatively low turnout.

Opinion polls predicted that the 39-year-old former economy minister Emmanuel Macron would win the five-year presidency, seeing off the National Front’s Marine Le Pen after an election campaign full of scandal and upsets.

Voting was not due to end until 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), but Belgian media published what they said were the results of surveys taken on Sunday by three unnamed opinion pollsters among people who had voted or intended to vote.

The Belgian public broadcaster RTBF said the surveys put Macron’s share of the vote at between 62 and 64 percent.

The information could not be verified by Reuters. Pollsters are not allowed to publish election-day surveys in France before voting closes.

The last opinion polls on Friday gave Macron between 61.5 and 63 percent of the vote. Forecasts of the result proved accurate for the tight first round race between 11 candidates last month.

A victory for Macron, who wants to deregulate the economy and deepen EU integration, would contrast with recent nativist, anti-globalization voting outcomes like those that will see Britain quit the EU and made Donald Trump U.S. president.

Should an upset occur and Le Pen win, the very future of the EU could be on the line, given her desire to close borders, dump the euro currency, and tear up trade treaties.

But even in defeat, the 48-year-old’s vote is likely to be about twice what her party scored the last time it reached the presidential second round in 2002, demonstrating the scale of voter disaffection with mainstream politics in France.

By midday, both candidates had voted, he in Le Touquet on the north coast, and she in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont.

Figures from the Interior Ministry said 28.23 percent of voters had turned out by midday, the lowest at that point since the 2002 presidential poll, when it was 26.19 percent. A poll on Friday had predicted a final turnout of 75 percent, down from over 80 percent in 2002, 2007 and 2012.