France votes in presidential election with cost of living and refugees the key issues

Incumbent Emmanuel Macron is favourite to retain power but he is being challenged by far-right Marine Le Pen and 10 other candidates

France is voting in a presidential election on Sunday, pitting the right wing against the far-right in an election in which the rising cost of living and refugees have become central issues.

Incumbent Emmanuel Macron is favourite to retain power in a field of 12 candidates, but he is being challenged by far-right candidates Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.

Turnout was at 65 per cent at 5pm in France, less than the 69.4 per cent reported at the same time in the last presidential election.

To win in Sunday’s primary, a candidate needed at least 50 per cent of votes. As voting began, opinion polls had no candidate at more than 30 per cent.

While a first round win remained possible, it was unlikely and had not happened before. The top two candidates from Sunday’s vote go forward to a second round on April 24.

As many people in France feel the cost-of-living pressures, some believe the far-right could breakthrough and win this election cycle.

In the Paris suburb of Pantin, Blandine Lehout, a 32-year-old actress, said none of the candidates deserved her vote.

“For the first time in my life I'm not going to vote,” she said. “In this election, I hate them all. We're at a stage where they frighten me.”

In Pontaumur, a village in central France, Simone Astier, 88, said she had voted for Mr Macron but without enthusiasm.

“I am never satisfied because there is always something that's not right,” she said

In Sevres, a short distance outside Paris, 62-year-old Gnagne N'dry said he had voted for Jean-Luc Melenchon, attracted by the radical left-winger's plans to raise the minimum wage, lower the retirement age and freeze petrol prices.

People vote in Paris in the first round of the presidential election, where up to 48 million voters will choose from 12 candidates. AP

“His ideas are right for me, I am a taxi driver,” he said. “With him, I'd already be retired.”

On Ukraine, Mr Macron has been at the forefront of international talks on supporting Ukraine in war and imposing sanctions on Russia.

On immigration, he wants to strengthen external borders of the European passport-free area, and speed up processing of asylum and residence permit applications.

On Ukraine, Ms Le Pen said she supports the Ukrainian people and refugees must be welcomed. She has cultivated ties with Moscow, but said Russia’s war in Ukraine “partially” changed her views about President Vladimir Putin.

On immigration, her plans include ending family reunification policies, introducing a law banning Muslim headscarves in all public places, and outlawing events and financing considered to be spreading “Islamism”.

Before the vote, opinion polls forecast Mr Macron would finish ahead of Ms Le Pen by a handful of percentage points in round one, with those top two going through to the second round vote.

Mr Melenchon was snapping at their heels in third place and fancied his chances of reaching the second round.

Ms Le Pen is accused of being an extremist bent on dividing society, but she has tried to show a more moderate face this election and focus on rising prices.

Mr Macron, by contrast, has campaigned relatively little, and began later than he wanted because of the war in Ukraine.

Mr Zemmour, a far-right TV pundit, made a strong start into the campaign last year but has lost ground.

Polling stations opened at 8am (6am GMT) and closed at 6pm GMT.

Updated: April 10, 2022, 4:08 PM
EDITOR'S PICKS