France heads to the polls in first round of elections

Citizens in France and around the world are heading to the ballot box to cast their vote for the next President of France, in a particularly tumultuous election.

The top two candidates once votes are counted will face each other on May 7, with the winner succeeding Francois Hollande as the President of the world’s fifth-largest economy. Currently, if polls are to believed, any of four out of eleven candidates may gather enough votes to survive to the next round.

The pollsters’ favourite, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron is expected to gather around 24% of the vote. A pro-EU candidate, Macron was a former Minister in Hollande’s Socialist governor, before resigning to run as an independent candidate.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is also expected to make it to the second round. Le Pen is campaigning on an anti-immigrant, anti-EU platform, promising to hold referendums on the usage of the Euro in France and participation in the E.U. if elected. Although she holds around 22% in the polls currently, Le Pen is seen as losing to any of the top four candidates in the second round.

Former Prime Minister and Conservative candidate Francois Fillon is predicted to come third. The former front-runner in the campaign, Fillon has suffered following allegations and a judicial investigation into reports that he paid his wife and children hundreds of thousands of taxpayer euros in work around his office that they allegedly never did.

At around 18% in recent polls, Jean-Luc Melenchon is expected to place fourth in the first round. A far-left candidate backed by the Communist Party, Melenchon has promised to take France out of NATO if he is elected. Melenchon has seen a surge in support recently after several strong showings in televised debates. He would beat Fillon and Le Pen in a hypothetical second round, but like all other candidates, would lose to Macron.

The Socialist Candidate, Benoit Hamon, is at around 8% in the polls. The Socialist Party has struggled with the slow French economy and security issues. President Francois Hollande declined to run for a second term with his approval ratings in the single digits.

Thousands of police officers and soldiers have been deployed around the country as voters cast their ballot, amid fears that a terrorist attack, like the one only days ago, could happen again. France has been in a state of emergency since 2015.

Polls are to close at 18:00 GMT.

(Image: Fox News)

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