Emmanuel Macron is hoping to win a second five-year term in the second and final round of the French presidential election today. His opponent is again Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing populist party National Rally, whom he trounced by 66.10 per cent to 33.90 per cent in 2017.
Macron, 44, has stepped up his campaign in the past fortnight, criss-crossing France to meet voters, after being accused of barely leaving the Elysée Palace before the first round. He has been rewarded with a growing lead over Le Pen, 53, in the opinion polls.
But to secure victory he must win over a substantial number of those who backed other candidates, both on the left and the centre-right, and persuade them to turn out and cast their votes for him.
Marine Le Pen, who has fallen behind Macron in opinion polls, voted in Hénin-Beaumont
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Le Pen cast her vote in Hénin-Beaumont, her political base in northeast France where she is the local MP. Macron voted with his wife, Brigitte, in Le Touquet.
Turnout was down by almost two percentage points at midday by comparison with 2017, the interior ministry said. The figure fueled concerns that the election would be marked by a high abstention rate amid disaffection among some voters at having to choose between Macron and Le Pen.
Emmanuel Macron profile: centrist, incumbent head of state
Emmanuel Macron, 44, was born in Amiens, northeast France, and is married to Brigitte, 68, a French teacher whom he met while a pupil at the school where she worked. She has three children from her previous marriage but none with him.
After graduating from the École Nationale d’Administration, France’s most prestigious higher education establishment, he worked as a civil servant and as an investment banker until 2012 when he became an adviser, and then the economy minister, of François Hollande, the Socialist president.
He resigned from the cabinet in 2016 to launch his own centrist political movement, La République En Marche.
Despite never having stood in an election before, he ran to become president in 2017, winning after a campaign overshadowed by sleaze allegations against François Fillon, the centre-right favourite.
Macron took office on a reformist agenda, promising to borrow ideas from left and right. In practice, he has leant to the centre-right during a five-year term marked by his unflinching commitment to the EU, but also by violent protests and the pandemic.
What would a Le Pen victory mean for France and Europe?
A victory for Le Pen would mean a significant change of direction for France, and for Europe (Peter Conradi writes). The leader of the National Rally has fought a campaign based on lowering taxes to boost living standards and, more controversially, on introducing national priority: a change to the constitution that would reduce the rights of non-French people living in France. This could face legal challenges at home and embroil her in a battle with Brussels, over time making it difficult for France to remain a member of the EU (even though Le Pen has said she is opposed to Frexit). She has also vowed to ban the wearing of Muslim head scarves in public. A victory for Macron would mean a continuation of his centrist policies
Read Peter’s full analysis on Macron’s first term from today’s Sunday Times here.
How significant are the early turnover figures?
The interior ministry said that 26.4 per cent of the country’s 48.7 million registered voters had cast their ballots by midday. Five years ago, the figure at the same time was 28.23 per cent. The final turnout in 2017 was 74.6 per cent, which was considered poor by French standards. There is concern among commentators that it could be even lower this year. A low number could be bad for Macron because it might mean the left-leaning voters he has tried to woo have stayed at home rather than turned out for him.
The midday turnout was nevertheless slightly higher than for the first round of the election two weeks ago. It is unclear whether this signals a marginally higher level of interest in the second round, or simply a desire to get voting out of the way early before heading off on holiday. The second round is being held during the school holidays, causing speculation that some voters may skip the ballot box in favor of a trip to the country or to the seaside.
Throughout the campaign, Macron has consistently been ahead of Le Pen in the polls with his lead widening in recent days. On Friday an Opinionway poll predicted that Macron would win re-election with 57 per cent of the vote.
In the first round Macron came out on top out of the 12 candidates in the vote, which was held on April 10. He won 27.85 per cent, followed by Le Pen on 23.15 per cent. The National Rally leader was only narrowly ahead of Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far-left France Unbowed party, who took 21.95 per cent. The big question since then has been how Mélenchon’s 7.7 million voters will behave today: will they back Macron or Le Pen, spoil their ballot papers or abstain?
Welcome to The Times‘s live coverage of the French presidential election, with Emmanuel Macron facing off against Marine Le Pen. Result projections will be released at 7pm BST, which tends to be highly accurate and should tell us who has won and by how much. The results for each region will start to come in soon after, and we should get a definitive result later this evening.