Today, Emmanuel Macron hopes to win a second five-year term in the second and final rounds of the French presidential election. His opponent is again Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right-wing populist National Rally Party, which she defeated by 66.10 percent to 33.90 percent in 2017.
Macron’s lead over 53-year-old Le Pen in opinion polls is growing.
But in order to secure victory, he must get a significant number of those who have supported other candidates, both on the left and the center, and persuade them to come and give him their vote.
Le Pen cast her vote in Hénin-Beaumont, her political base in north-eastern France, where she is a local MP. Macron (44) voted with his wife Brigitte in Le Touquet.
Turnout figures, according to the Home Office, showed a 63.23 per cent turnout by 3pm UK time, less than the 65.30 per cent recorded at the same time in the 2017 election. the vote will have the highest non-participation rate in more than 50 years.
Le Pen’s win would be a gift for Putin
President Putin is one of the world’s leaders who would probably be pleased with Marine Le Pen’s victory.
Any European politician who undermines EU unity is good news for Moscow, wherever it sits on the political spectrum.
Putin welcomed Le Pen to the Kremlin in March 2017, a month before the previous French presidential election, in which she also ran.
The two leaders encouraged each other at the meeting, with Le Pen saying she shared with Putin a “vision of cooperation, not a vision of subordination.” The French candidate has promised to withdraw from the EU’s “foolish” sanctions against Russia if she wins.
Marine Le Pen met with President Putin in 2017 in the Kremlin, where she said she had a vision for France’s cooperation with Russia.
MICHAIL KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN / AP
Le Pen’s ties to Moscow became apparent after her party took out a € 9 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.
However, the candidate for the National Assembly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Moscow eased its hopes for allies in the heart of Europe.
Russian analysts think Le Pen’s previous sympathies for Putin have tarnished her in the midst of Western rage over the war, and if she wins, she will be limited in pursuing any policy that really favors the Kremlin.
If Le Pen wins and the Ukrainian war eventually subsides, “the best thing to hope for is a stabilization of relations at a low level, which would be a plus compared to the way things are now,” said one Moscow expert.
Divided France: the gap between urban elites and provincial cities
Voters in Paris and other major cities often have a positive image of President Macron (writes Adam Sage). They tend to praise him for modernizing the economy, which has long been defended by bureaucracy, behaved confidently on the international stage and deftly managed the health crisis.
But in small French provincial towns, the view is very different. Macron’s reforms to promote work rather than prosperity – such as abolishing property taxes, reducing corporate taxes and reducing housing benefits – have left him a reputation as a “rich president.”
It is a reputation that has made him not only unloved but also hated in the areas of northern, central and eastern France, as well as parts of the western and Mediterranean coasts.
Macron was welcomed by supporters today after the vote in Le Touquet, but he is hated in the provincial areas of France
GONZALO SOURCES / AP
If it provokes such anger, it is not just because of his political decisions. His attitude also turns out badly among provincial workers’ voters, who are appalled by his tendency to fluctuate between soaring rhetoric and sometimes crude language, as when he said he wanted “get angry [piss off]”Unvaccinated. Critics often describe him as disrespectful and arrogant.
Anger erupted in the fall of 2018 during a provincial-led yellow vest movement irritated by rising living costs and what they perceived as growing inequality between rich and poor under Macron’s presidency.
Macron spent most of the next three years trying to bridge the gap between the Parisian elite and the small provincial towns that were the bastions of the yellow vests.
He never completely succeeded.
Profile of Marine Le Pen: right-wing leader of the National Assembly
Marine Le Pen, 53, was born in the elegant Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine and grew up in a family residence in nearby Saint-Cloud. She has been married twice and has three children, but now she shares an apartment with her best friend and six cats and says she does not want males of any kind in her household.
She has a law degree, but also a degree in cat breeding, and has done little to end the rumors that if she fails to become president, she will leave politics and become a full-time breeder.
Le Pen shares his apartment with his best friend and six cats
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
After becoming the leader of the National Assembly in 2012 following the departure of Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father and party founder, she subsequently quarreled with him over her efforts to make the movement less extremist and more electoral.
That year, she achieved the best score on the National Assembly candidate, and five years later she improved, but lost to Macron after a poor performance in the television debate. This year’s election is widely considered her last chance.
• Read Charles Bremner’s full profile here
Profile of Emmanuel Macron: centrist acting head of state
Emmanuel Macron, 44, was born in Amiens in north-eastern France and is married to Brigitte, 68, a French teacher he met while a student at the school where she worked. She has three children from a previous marriage, but none with him.
After graduating from the École Nationale d’Administration, France’s most prestigious higher education institution, he worked as a civil servant and investment banker until 2012, when he became an adviser and then Minister of Economy François Hollande, the socialist president.
In 2016, he resigned from the cabinet to establish his own centrist political movement, La République En Marche.
Macron and his wife at a victorious rally after winning their first presidential election in 2017
CHRISTOPHE MORIN / BLOOMBERG / GETTY IMAGES
Despite never running in the election before, he ran for president in 2017 and won after a campaign overshadowed by allegations of disgrace to François Fillon, the center-right favorite.
Macron took office on the basis of a reform program and promised to borrow ideas from left and right. In practice, during a five-year period marked by an unwavering commitment to the EU, but also by violent protests and pandemics, he leaned towards the center-right.
What would Le Pen’s victory mean for France and Europe?
Winning for Le Pen would mean a significant change of direction for France and Europe (writes Peter Conradi). The leader of the National Rally fought a campaign based on tax cuts to raise living standards and, more controversially, to introduce national priority: constitutional amendment restricting the rights of non – French people living in France. This could face legal problems at home and drag her into the battle with Brussels, which would eventually make it more difficult for France to remain a member of the EU (although Le Pen said she was against Frexit). She also promised to ban Muslim headscarves on her head in public. A victory for Macron would mean a continuation of his centrist policy
• Read Peter’s full analysis of Macron’s first term in today’s Sunday Times here
How significant are the early turnout figures?
The Interior Ministry said 26.4 percent of the country’s 48.7 million registered voters cast their ballots by noon. Five years ago, it was 28.23 percent at the same time. The final turnout in 2017 was 74.6 percent, which was considered bad by French standards. There are fears among commentators that it could be even lower this year. A low number could be bad for Macron, as it could mean that the left-wing voters he was trying to lure stayed at home rather than lean toward him.
The noon turnout was slightly higher than in the first round of elections two weeks ago. It is not clear whether this signals a slightly higher level of interest in the second round, or simply a desire to cancel the vote before you go on holiday. The second round takes place during the school holidays, which has sparked speculation that some voters may skip the ballot box in favor of a trip to the countryside or to the sea.
During the campaign, Macron was constantly ahead of Le Pen in the polls, and its lead has widened in recent days. On Friday, Opinionway’s poll predicted that Macron would win the re-election with 57 percent of the vote.
In the first round, Macron took first place out of 12 candidates in a poll held on April 10. He gained 27.85 percent, followed by Le Pen with 23.15 percent. The leader of the National Rally was just ahead of Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far left France Unbowed, who gained 21.95 percent. The big question since then has been how Mélenchon’s 7.7 million voters will behave today: will they support Macron or Le Pen, ruin their ballots or abstain?
Welcome to TimesLive broadcast from the French presidential election, where Emmanuel Macron faces Marine Le Pen. Projections of the results will be published at 7 pm BST, which are very accurate and should tell us who won and by how much. The results for each region will start coming soon after and we should get the final result later in the evening.
• Ayesha Hazarika in London and Peter Conradi in Paris will be on Times Radio between 19:00 and 20:00. Listen here