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France election: polls open as Macron and Le Pen battle for presidency

Emmanuel Macron goes into the election with a reasonable lead in polls over Marine Le Pen, after a fractious campaign

The polls have opened in mainland France for the second round of the presidential election that will see voters choose to give Emmanuel Macron another five years in office or elect Marine Le Pen.

Macron is favourite to win but any second term will be determined by whether he finishes with a convincing victory. Both he and Le Pen need to have convinced the almost 50% of voters who did not choose either of them in the first round ballot two weeks ago.

The level of abstention and the number of people protest voting by casting a blank ballot, as many supporters of “third man” the radical left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon have promised, could affect the result.

Forget the presidency, I can lead France as its PM, insists MélenchonRead more

The polling stations close at 7pm this evening in most of mainland France and 8pm in major towns and cities. An estimation of the result based on the count from a number of specific polling stations chosen as representative of France will be announced at 8pm. While it is only an estimation it is usually a reliable indication of who has won unless it is too close to call and within a margin of error.

Because of the time difference, those France’s overseas territories began voting on Saturday.

Campaigning officially ended at midnight on Friday when all opinion polls ceased and since when the candidates have been obliged to keep a low profile.

Macron’s programme includes a cap on fuel prices, indexing pensions and a progressive rise in the retirement age to 65 years. He also campaigned for a stronger Europe.

Le Pen has promised to lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for those who began work before the age of 20, dropping VAT on fuel from 20% to 5.5%, and a new law to allow French nationals priority for housing, jobs and benefits as well as the deportation of illegal immigrants.

Macron and Le Pen won places in the second round two weeks ago when he polled just under 9.8m votes – 27.85% of those cast – and she obtained 8.13m votes – 23.15% of those cast. Mélenchon came a close third with 7.7m votes, just 420,000 short of Le Pen. The candidates for the mainstream right and left both trailed with Valerie Pécresse from the conservative Les Républicains in fifth place and Anne Hidalgo for the Parti Socialiste in 10th place; both polled under 5% meaning they will not have their campaign expenses reimbursed.

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