The 50,000 armed police and troops called up to secure France’s presidential election were much in evidence as some 47 million eligible voters headed for polling stations Sunday, two days after an Islamist terrorist murdered a police officer and injured two on Champs Elysees. Of the eleven candidates, four are rated realistic. The top two will contest a run-off on May 7. For the first time in 15 years, the far-right National Front led by Martine Le Pen, 48, has a real chance of winning. She is challenged by center-left Emmanuel Macron, 39, center-right Republican Francois Fillon, 62, who has gained ground lost over alleged misuse of public funds, and the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, 65.
The top issues are Frexit – Le Pen and Melenchon favor a UK-style referendum; Macron is against one and Fillon’s followers are divided. The Muslim issue preys on voters’ minds in view of the wave of homegrown terror besetting France. Le Pen would be toughest; Macron most tolerant. The economy, immigration and employment are hot topics too
One-third or more of the electorate is predicted to abstain because they are dissatisfied with all the leading candidates: As one political observer put it: For many, Le Pen is too extreme, Macron too young, Fillon cannot be trusted, and Communist-backed radical Jean-Luc Melenchon is too risky.