Macron vs Le Pen: France votes in tense presidential runoff

Credit: AP

France has begun voting in the presidential runoff election, with centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron taking on far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Mr Macron is asking voters to trust him for a second five-year term despite a presidency troubled by protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. A Macron victory in this vote would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.

Ms Le Pen’s support in France’s electorate has grown during this campaign to her highest level ever, and much will depend Sunday on how many people turn out to vote.

A man votes at a polling station in Strasbourg, eastern France. Credit: AP

Both candidates are trying to court the 7.7 million votes of a leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, defeated in the first vote.

Polling stations opened at 8am on Sunday and close at 7pm in most places, apart from big cities who have chosen to keep stations open until 8pm.

Macron v Le Pen

Earlier this week, the pair went head to head in a two-hour-45-minute debate - the last of the campaign.

Ms Le Pen has sought to appeal to working class voters struggling with surging prices amid the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine - an approach that even Mr Macron acknowledged has found resonance in the wider public.

She said bringing down the cost of living would be her priority if elected as France’s first woman president, and she portrayed herself as the candidate for voters unable to make ends meet.

She says that Mr Macron’s presidency has left the country deeply divided.

She has repeatedly referenced the so-called yellow vest protest movement that rocked his government before the Covid-19 pandemic, with months of violent demonstrations against his economic policies that some thought hurt the poorest.

People wait outside a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France. Credit: AP

France’s presidential campaign has been especially challenging for voters of immigrant heritage and religious minorities.

Polling suggests that much of France’s Muslim population, the largest in Western Europe, voted for far left candidates in the first round, so their voice could be decisive.

Mr Macron has also touted his environmental and climate accomplishments in a bid to draw in young voters popular with far left candidates.

Citizens and especially millennials voted in droves for Mr Melenchon. Many young voters are particularly engaged with climate issues.

Macron has said his next prime minister would be placed in charge of environmental planning as France seeks to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Ms Le Pen, once considered a climate-change sceptic, wants to scrap subsidies for renewable energies. She vowed to dismantle windfarms and invest in nuclear and hydro energy.