POLLS PRE­DICT

Turnout lower than in pre­vi­ous years; re­sult ex­pected at 2am Malaysian time

New Straits Times - - News -

PARIS

FRENCH vot­ers were choos­ing yes­ter­day be­tween a young, pro-Euro­pean Union cen­trist and a euroscep­tic, anti-im­mi­gra­tion far-right­ist for their next pres­i­dent, with early fig­ures in­di­cat­ing a rel­a­tively low turnout.

Opin­ion polls pre­dicted that for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter Em­manuel Macron, 39, would win the five-year pres­i­dency, see­ing off the Na­tional Front’s Marine Le Pen af­ter an elec­tion cam­paign full of scan­dal and up­sets.

Vot­ing was not due to end un­til 8pm, but Bel­gian me­dia pub­lished what they said were the re­sults of sur­veys taken yes­ter­day by three un­named opin­ion poll­sters among peo­ple who had voted or in­tended to vote.

The Bel­gian pub­lic broad­caster RTBF said the sur­veys put Macron’s share of the vote at be­tween 62 and 64 per cent.

The in­for­ma­tion could not be ver­i­fied. Poll­sters are not al­lowed to pub­lish elec­tion day sur­veys in France be­fore vot­ing closes.

The last opin­ion polls on Fri­day gave Macron be­tween 61.5 and 63 per cent of the vote. Fore­casts of the re­sult proved ac­cu­rate for the tight first round race be­tween 11 can­di­dates last month.

A vic­tory for Macron, who wants to dereg­u­late the econ­omy and deepen EU in­te­gra­tion, would con­trast with re­cent na­tivist, antiglob­al­i­sa­tion vot­ing out­comes like those that will see Britain quit the EU and made Don­ald Trump United States pres­i­dent.

Should an up­set oc­cur and Le Pen win, the fu­ture of the EU could be on the line, given her de­sire to close bor­ders, dump the euro cur­rency, and tear up trade treaties.

But even in de­feat, the 48-yearold’s vote is likely to be about twice what her party scored the last time it reached the pres­i­den­tial sec­ond round in 2002, demon­strat­ing the scale of voter dis­af­fec­tion with main­stream pol­i­tics.

By midday, both can­di­dates had voted, he in Le Tou­quet on the north coast, and she in the north­ern town of Henin-Beau­mont.

Fig­ures from the In­te­rior Min­istry said 28.23 per cent of vot­ers had turned out by midday, the low­est at that point since the 2002 pres­i­den­tial poll, when it was 26.19 per­cent.

At 5pm, the turnout was 65.30 per cent, lower than both the first round and the 2012 vote, min­istry data showed.

The fig­ure was 6.6 points lower than in the 2012 run-off for pres­i­dent, and about four points down from this year’s first round of vot­ing on April 23.

A poll on Fri­day had pre­dicted a fi­nal turnout of 75 per cent, down from more than 80 per cent in 2002, 2007 and 2012.

Poll­sters see likely ab­sten­tions as high­est among left wing vot­ers who feel dis­en­fran­chised by yes­ter­day’s choice.

It re­mained un­clear what the fi­nal turnout would be, and what a high or low show­ing could mean for the out­come. One ex­tra un­known is the level of blank and spoilt bal­lot pa­pers.

Af­ter a cam­paign in which favourites dropped out of the race one af­ter the other, Le Pen is nev­er­the­less closer to elected power than the far right has been in France since World War 2.

If opin­ion polls prove ac­cu­rate and France elects its youngestever pres­i­dent rather than its first fe­male leader, Macron has said he ex­pects no hon­ey­moon pe­riod.

Close to 60 per cent of those who plan to vote for Macron say they will do so to stop Le Pen from be­ing elected to lead the euro zone’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy, rather than be­cause they fully sup­port the for­mer banker turned politi­cian.

The bat­tle be­tween main­stream and more rad­i­cal poli­cies in France will con­tinue into par­lia­men­tary elec­tions next month in which the new pres­i­dent will try to se­cure a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment. One poll this week sug­gested that was within reach for Macron.

With se­cu­rity a prime con­cern, more than 50,000 po­lice of­fi­cers were on duty yes­ter­day. Mil­i­tant at­tacks here, in Nice and else­where in France have killed more than 230 peo­ple in re­cent years.

The court­yard of the Lou­vre Mu­seum here, where Macron was due to speak af­ter the re­sult, was briefly evac­u­ated af­ter a sus­pi­cious bag was found. Agen­cies

AP PIC

Sol­diers pa­trolling the court­yard of the Lou­vre Mu­seum in Paris yes­ter­day.

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