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Macron Vs Le Pen: Battle reaches peak as France votes for next president
24 April 2022, 14:06 | Updated: 24 April 2022, 15:27
France has begun voting in a presidential run-off election between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen.
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Both candidates are trying to win the 7.7 million votes of leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was defeated in the first round on April 10.
Polling stations opened at 8am local time on Sunday and are set to close at 7pm in most places - aside from big cities that have chosen to keep stations open until 8pm.
The centrist Macron is asking voters to trust him for a second five-year term despite a presidency troubled by protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
It would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.
Le Pen's support in France's electorate has grown during this campaign to her highest level ever, with much depending on how many people turn out to vote.
Polls forecast a possibly record-high number of people who will either cast a blank vote or not vote at all.
As of midday, the turnout stood at 26.41 per cent, according to the interior ministry, almost two points less than the noon turnout five years ago.
Casting her ballot in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, Ms Le Pen said she was "serene".
She added: "I have confidence in the French."
A voté !— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 24, 2022
Aux milliers de Françaises et de Français qui permettent au scrutin de se tenir : merci. Dans les bureaux de vote de nos villes et de nos villages, vous êtes le cœur battant de notre démocratie. pic.twitter.com/uMzsMu0pJi
Meanwhile, Macron greeted crowds with handshakes and embraces in the English Channel coastal town of Le Touquet.
He tweeted: "Voted! To the thousands of French men and women who allow the ballot to take place: thank you.
"In the polling stations of our cities and towns, you are the beating heart of our democracy."