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French vote in watershed election for country, Europe

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-05-07 21:28

French vote in watershed election for country, Europe

A person holds a ballot as the voting started in the second round of 2017 French presidential election in Marseille, France, May 7, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - Polling stations opened on France's European mainland on Sunday for the decisive round of a presidential election crucial for both the country and the European Union (EU).

Nearly 47 million voters are expected to cast their ballots, choosing between pro-Europe, pro-business centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, and anti-immigration, anti-EU far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

More than 66,000 polling stations on the French European mainland opened at 08:00 local time (0600 GMT) and are scheduled to close at 20:00 in big cities, while the rest will close at 19:00.

French voters in overseas territories casted their votes on Saturday, but the results will be only known after all votes are casted on the mainland.

Official campaigning period ended Friday night, signalling the start of a blackout on any campaigning activities, according to French electoral law.

The law bans the publication of any early poll or counting results of the vote before all polling stations are closed.

Preliminary projections of the voting results are expected to be revealed by various sources after 20:00.

Macron and Le Pen topped the first round vote of the election on April 23, with 24.01 percent and 21.30 percent of votes, respectively.

Several major French opinion polls conducted after the first round have been consistent, which estimate that former economy minister Macron is likely to win the runoff after an intense campaign against Le Pen.

The two candidates both casted their votes on Sunday morning.

Macron, accompanied by his wife Brigitte, casted his vote around 11:00 local time in Le Touquet, north France.

Le Pen voted in Henin-Beaumont, north France, around 11:05.

The two contenders proposed very different prospects for France throughout an intense campaign.

Dubbed himself as "the candidate for jobs," Macon invited electorate from various political views to endorse his pro-business projects and plans to revive the European project.

His rival Le Pen, proposing a strict opposite program based on protectionist approaches, promised voters a return to the national currency and tightening internal borders to restore security.

Outgoing French president Francois Hollande and prime minister Bernard Cazenveuve both voted around 10:25 (0825GMT).

Hollande publicly endorsed Macron, who had served in his government as economy minister, calling on voters to support Macron and to reject the rise of the far-right.

The turnout at 12:00 (1000 GMT) in the ongoing runoff of the French presidential election on Sunday was 28.23 percent, lower than the figure in 2012, French interior ministry announced. In 2012, the turnout for the runoff at the same hour was registered at 30.66 percent. In the first around of the election on April 23, the turnout at noon was 28.54 percent.

The French interior ministry has vowed to to carry out tight security measure to safeguard the election, with over 50,000 police and gendarmes deployed across the country.

On Sunday afternoon, the courtyard outside the Louvre Museum, where Macron plans to celebrate if he wins the election, was temporary evacuated for "precautionary measures," the Paris police department said.

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