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FRANCE – First Round Of Presidential Elections Are Underway

21st Century Wire says…

The gates are open and they’re off.

‘Independent centrist’ Emmanuel Macron, pro Europe and former Rothschild golden child who’s been a historical ‘flip flop’ with his political directions; far right Front National, Marine Le Pen, who triggered yet another Femen protest outside polling station in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont where she was heading to vote; the scandalous François Fillon who wants to embark on Margaret Thatcher style reforms for France if he ever won (and we know how bad Thatcherism was for Britain); and finally hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Friday’s final polls showed the four leading candidates are so close that any two could go through.

More on this report from The Guardian…

MLePen
(Image by AP)

Jon Henley
The Guardian

Voting is under way in the first round of an unpredictable French presidential election whose outcome could prove crucial for the future of a deeply divided country and a nervous European Union.

Less than two days after a gunman shot dead a policeman on the Champs-Elysées in an attack for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, France’s 47 million registered voters – nearly a quarter of whom are still undecided – go to the polls amid heightened security.

The top two finishers from the 11 candidates in the first round will advance to a runoff on 7 May to decide the next president after a tense and tight election dominated by the economy, jobs, immigration and national identity.

With campaigning banned on Saturday, Friday’s final polls showed the four leading candidates – independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen, scandal-hit conservative François Fillon and hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon – so close that any two could go through.

France’s interior ministry said turnout at midday was 28.54%, a slight increase on the previous poll in 2012 and well up on the record low 21.4% in 2002, when Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie advanced to the runoff in a major upset. Analysts have said the abstention level could play a big part in this year’s vote.

Topless demonstrators from the Femen activist group briefly caused a commotion as they staged a protest against Le Pen outside a polling station in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont where she was heading to vote.

Femen
(Image by Michel Spingler – AP)

The protesters jumped out of a car wearing masks of Le Pen and the US president, Donald Trump, but were quickly bundled into police vans and Le Pen voted at the station shortly after without further disruption.

Macron, meanwhile, was the image of serenity as he posed for selfies with voters after casting his ballot in the popular coastal resort town of Le Touquet in northern France alongside his wife, Brigitte.

Mélenchon and Fillon voted in Paris, but Fillon’s wife Penelope – like her husband under formal investigation in the fake jobs scandal that hit the centre-right Les Républicains party’s campaign – cast her ballot near the couple’s 14th-century manor house in the Sarthe department, west of the capital.

The unpopular outgoing president, François Hollande, who is not standing for re-election, voted in his political fiefdom of Tulle in Correze in the south-west. The Socialist party’s current presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, cast his ballot in Trappes, a Paris suburb.

The poll is being widely seen as a litmus test for the strength of a populist, nativist and anti-establishment wave that produced the twin shocks of the UK’s Brexit vote and the election of Trump in the US, and could also be decisive for the future of the EU.

Both Le Pen and Mélenchon have said they want to radically renegotiate France’s relationship with Europe and could hold referendums on a French exit from the bloc. Le Pen also wants to quit the euro and restore the franc.

Fillion
(Image by Christophe Archambault – Pool/EPA)

Voters were queuing early at polling stations in Paris. The vote “is really important, mainly because we really need a change in this country with all the difficulties we are facing and terrorism,” said one resident, Alain Richaud.

It’s definitely risky, but I have faith in the result even if an extreme candidate qualifies for the second round,” said Beatrice Schopflin.

Financial markets are already nervous about the vote’s outcome, fearing capital flight or defaults should the far right or far left triumph. France holds two rounds of legislative elections in June, however, and without a parliamentary majority, any new president’s powers would in practice be limited…

Continue this report at The Guardian

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