World

Macron, Le Pen face off as France decides

PARIS: After a tumultuous election campaign filled with scandal and surprises, the French public began to vote yesterday on whether a pro-European Union centrist or an anti-EU, anti-immigration far-rightist will lead them for the next five years.

Opinion polls indicate they will pick Mr Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old ex-economy minister who wants to bridge the left-right divide, resisting an anti-establishment tide that has seen Britons vote to leave the EU and Americans choose Donald Trump as US president.

But should an upset occur and National Front candidate Marine Le Pen win, the future of the EU could be on the line.

Mr Macron, who wants to deregulate the economy and deepen EU integration, has a 23- to 26-percentage-point lead over Ms Le Pen in the opinion polls.

Ms Le Pen, who wants to close borders, ditch the euro currency and clamp down on migration, is nevertheless closer to elected power than the far right has ever been in Western Europe since World War II.

Close to 60 per cent of those who plan to vote for Mr Macron say they will do so to stop Ms Le Pen from being elected rather than because they fully agree with him. - REUTERS

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