Domingo, 17 Diciembre, 2017

France heads to the polls after unpredictable presidential campaign

Irune Rengel | 23 Abril, 2017, 22:27

A French Army soldier stands guard near the Champs Elysees boulevard in Paris, Saturday, April 22, 2017.

Many in the French polls are voting to avert France from falling for the anti-immigrant and nationalistic agenda of some of the presidential candidates like National Front party's Le Pen.

With as many as one-third of voters still on the fence, the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday could yield any number of outcomes.

French authorities said a man sought in Belgium, who was suspected of having planned to travel to France on Thursday, had handed himself in to police in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

France's 10 per cent unemployment, its lackluster economy and security were issues that top concerns for the 47 million eligible voters.

Out of the 11 candidates running for presidency this year, four are now neck-and-neck in polls, the centrist former Minister of economy Emmanuel Macron, the far-rightist Marine Le Pen, the right-wing conservative Francois Fillon and the far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon.

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However, conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister who was embroiled in a scandal over alleged fake jobs, appears to be closing the gap, as is far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Security measures were strengthened at the 69 polling stations across the country, it said, following a jihadist's killing of a policeman in Paris this week that put the country on edge.

Security has inevitably been an issue in campaigning, as have immigration and the economy. The gunman carried a note praising the Islamic State group.

Of almost 47 million registered French voters, there are fewer than a million resident in far-flung places like French Polynesia in the South Pacific, and Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique in the Caribbean.

Voters in the tiny French island of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, south of Canada's Newfoundland in the north Atlantic, were first to start voting on Saturday morning. French President François Hollande said that the leads so far indicate the attack was of a "terrorist nature".

Chinese community in France worry its voice not heard in electionsEurope's largest population of ethnic Chinese live in France, with an estimate of 600,000 residents.

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Later, federal forces shot dead Francisco "Pancho" Carreon during a firefight near Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas. State authorities said his supporters had set fires and tried to block roads in an unsuccessful effort to help him escape.

The first round of the French presidential election takes place today in what will be the most unpredictable - and most pivotal - election in Europe this year. Sunday's round of voting will be followed by a second-round runoff on 7 May between the top two candidates.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are the favorites to progress to a runoff on May 7, but the result is too close to call in a deeply divided country.

Fillon, Le Pen and Macron cancelled their planned campaign events after the shooting. "I doubt you're going to get a National Assembly vote in June that would give a majority to either of them", said Christopher. But experts say it's unclear what kind of effect the attack will have on the vote, the first round of which comes Sunday. Not so in France - even amid a presidential campaign.

On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of thousands of French expatriates cast their ballots in polling stations around the world, including at the French embassy in Tel Aviv.

Both Ms Le Pen and Mr Melenchon - two candidates from opposite ends of the political spectrum - could pull France out of the 28-nation bloc and its shared euro currency in a so-called "Frexit".

Macron, who from 2014 to 2016 was economy minister in the Socialist government that Le Pen has criticised repeatedly for its security record, said the solutions were not as simple as she suggested. She has also vowed that if she wins, France will exit the European Union, as well as the border-free Schengen area.

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