French voters are choosing a president after a bitter campaign. The neoliberal former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron is facing the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen on the runoff ballot.
Polls have opened in France. The choice between spending the next five years under former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron or the anti-EU and anti-immigrant far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has left many voters unenthused and others downright disgusted.
Pollster Odoxa expects France's second-lowest turnout ever, with just 75 percent of 47.6 million eligible voters likely to cast ballots. Fifty-three percent appear more motivated to torpedo their less-favored candidate than elect the person they want. Most of those are supporters of the neoliberal Macron, who has a 25-point margin in many opinion polls, but 57 percent of people who intend to vote for the banker-cum-politician will do so defensively, while a full 56 percent of likely Le Pen voters truly back the far-right political scion.
"The expected victory ... wouldn't be a blank check for Emmanuel Macron," according to Odoxa. "A huge majority will not be backing him wholeheartedly."
The 39-year-old Macron received just over 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, on April 23, while his 48-year-old extreme-right opponent took about 21 percent.
France votes everywhere
In mainland France, 66,546 polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (0600 UTC) on Sunday and most will close at 7 p.m., with initial estimates expected by the time all voting stops at 8 p.m. Voting began for French territories on Saturday, starting with Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago near Newfoundland, where voters showed up dressed in scarves and jackets to ward off the chilly weather. Shortly afterward, polls opened in French Guiana and the French West Indies, where voters wore shorts.
French citizens also turned out in droves to vote in the Canadian province of Quebec. The consul general said more than 57,000 people had registered to vote in the province, the vast majority in Montreal.
The government has deployed more than 50,000 police officers to keep the peace on France's Election Day, about 12,000 of them in the area of Paris alone.
mkg/jlw (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)