Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen face off as France elects president

A woman walks past official posters of candidates for the 2017 French presidential election Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron  Photo: Reuters

French voters will pick a new president on Sunday, choosing between young centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a watershed French Presidential election for the France and Europe.

Polling day follows an unprecedented campaign marked by scandal, repeated surprises and a last-minute hacking attack on Macron, a 39-year-old who has never held elected office.

The run-off vote pits the pro-Europe, pro-business Macron against anti-immigration and anti-EU Le Pen, two radically different visions that underline a split in western democracies.

Le Pen, 48, has portrayed the ballot as a contest between the “globalists” represented by her rival — those in favour of open trade, immigration and shared sovereignty — versus the “nationalists” who defend strong borders and national identities.

Voting will begin on the mainland at 11:30 am IST in 66,546 polling stations. Most will close at 10:30 pm IST, except those in big cities which will stay open an hour longer.

A first estimate of the results will be published around 11:30 pm IST.

“The political choice the French people are going to make is clear,” Le Pen said in her opening remarks during an often vicious debate between the pair on Wednesday night.

The last polling showed Macron — winner of last month’s election first round — with a widening lead of around 62 per cent to 38 per cent before the hacking revelations on Friday evening. A campaigning blackout entered into force shortly after.

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