France kicks off presidential vote and security tight

World Today

France kicks off presidential vote and security tight French expats wait in line to vote in Montreal, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Early voting began overseas Saturday in France’s most nail-biting election in generations, and the 11 candidates seeking to become the country’s next president silenced their campaigns as required to give voters a period of reflection.

CGTN’s Richard Bestic reports.

France kicks off presidential vote and security tight

Early voting began overseas Saturday in France's most nail-biting election in generations, and the 11 candidates seeking to become the country's next president silenced their campaigns as required to give voters a period of reflection. CGTN's Richard Bestic reports.

Opinion polls showed a tight race among the four top contenders vying to get into the May presidential 7 runoff that will decide who becomes France’s next head of state. But the polls also showed that decision was largely in the hands of the one-in-three French voters who are still undecided.

Polls opened in France’s far-flung overseas territories but won’t start until Sunday on the French mainland. France’s 10 percent unemployment, its lackluster economy and security issues top voters’ concerns.

Political campaigning was banned from midnight Friday until the polls close at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Polls suggested that far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead.

However, conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister whose campaign was initially derailed by corruption allegations that his wife was paid for no-show work as his aide, appeared to be closing the gap, as was far-leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Security was tight — the government has mobilized more than 50,000 police and gendarmes to protect 70,000 polling stations, with an additional 7,000 soldiers on patrol.

Security is a prominent issue after a wave of extremist attacks on French soil, including a gunman who killed a Paris police officer Thursday night before being shot dead by security forces. The gunman carried a note praising the Islamic State group.

Voters made their choices in the Atlantic Ocean territories of Saint Pierre and Miquelon as well as in French Guiana in South America, the Caribbean’s Guadeloupe and elsewhere. Voters abroad could also cast ballots in French embassies Saturday.

Story by The Associated Press


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CGTN’s Kate Parkinson reports.

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