The French vote this Sunday to decide whether to entrust a new mandate to the centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, or turn to the extreme right with Marine Le Pen, a crucial election with replicas in the world.
Almost 49 million French are called to the polls. Until noon, 26.41% had already voted, including Le Pen in his stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont (north), almost one point more than in the first round and about two points less than in the 2017 ballot, according to figures of the Ministry of the Interior.
According to the latest polls published on Friday, the 44-year-old candidate from La República en Marcha (LREM) would prevail over his rival from the 53-year-old Agrupación Nacional (RN), with a smaller advantage than in 2017, when he was proclaimed president with 66.1% of the vote.
Five years later, France is not the same country: social protests marked the first half of Macron’s term, a global pandemic confined millions of people and the Russian offensive in Ukraine shook the European continent with force.
The war at the gates of the European Union (EU) flew over the campaign, although the main concern of the French was their purchasing power, in a context of rising energy and food prices.
Beyond choosing between two models of society, voters have in their hands to choose what place in the world they want for this economic and nuclear power until 2027, a decision that could involve changes in alliances if Le Pen wins.
The heiress of the National Front proposes to inscribe the “national priority” in the Constitution, to exclude foreigners from social aid, and advocates abandoning the integrated command of NATO and reducing the powers of the EU.
Instead, the outgoing president advocates more Europe, whether in economic, social or defense matters, and recovering his reformist and liberal momentum, with his flagship proposal to delay the retirement age from 62 to 65, which in 2020 he already created massive protests.
“Between plague and cholera, we must make the right decision,” said Pierre Charollais, a 67-year-old retiree in Rennes (west), advocating a “responsible vote” in a “particular” context due to the war in Ukraine and the French presidency of the EU.
The Social Democratic prime ministers of Germany, Spain and Portugal, as well as Brazil’s leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, voiced their support for Macron during the campaign.
– The unknown abstentionist –
The polling stations will close at 8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT), after which the results will be known. Le Pen could become the first female president or Macron the first to be re-elected since the conservative Jacques Chirac (1995-2007).
The abstention is announced as one of the main unknowns of the ballot, especially when the disenchantment of having to vote again between Macron and Le Pen spreads among part of the electorate, especially young people and the voters of the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
“It’s complicated, we’re voting a bit backwards for the second round, we have to say what it is. Unfortunately, in the first round it didn’t come out exactly what I wanted,” Robin Darchicourt, in the French archipelago of Guadeloupe, told AFP.
On April 10, Mélenchon prevailed in this French territory in the Caribbean and came in third place in all of France with almost 22% of the vote. The two finalists winked at their constituents throughout the campaign to try to mobilize and engage them.
Le Pen opted to appear as the defender of purchasing power, against a rival who, in her opinion, despises the popular classes. Macron made an effort to dismantle Le Pen’s program and warn of the danger of the arrival of the extreme right to power.
“We could reach the record for the fewest number of votes in a presidential election,” political scientist Bruno Cautrès told the Libération newspaper on Saturday, for whom the final abstention of left-wing voters “would not reverse the trend” favorable to Macron.
“Regardless of the winner, the country will be more difficult to govern in the next five years,” political scientist Chloé Morin told AFP. One of the keys will be in the legislative elections that will be held on June 12 and 19.
According to a BVA poll on Friday, 66% want Macron to lose his parliamentary majority. The last “cohabitation” dates back to the period from 1997 to 2002, when Chirac appointed the socialist Lionel Jospin as prime minister.