French voters go to the polls to pick next president

French voters headed to the polls Sunday morning to choose their next president from centrist Emmanuel macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The front-runner in France's presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron, addresses supporters during a campaign meeting in Paris, May 1, 2017. Macron said he respects those who oppose his policies but still plan to vote for him on Sunday to block far-right leader Marine Le Pen from the presidency. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo
The front-runner in France’s presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron, addresses supporters during a campaign meeting in Paris, May 1, 2017. Macron said he respects those who oppose his policies but still plan to vote for him on Sunday to block far-right leader Marine Le Pen from the presidency. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo

Le Pen, of the National Front party, would be France’s first female leader, while Macron, of the En Marche! Party, would be its youngest president at the age of 39.

The voting, which ends at 8 p.m. local time, comes at the end of a tumultuous campaign that saw Macron and Le Pen come out on top of a field of 11 candidates in an initial round of voting, capturing 24 percent and 21 percent respectively.
The issues weighing heavily on the minds of voters include high unemployment, a stagnating economy, and security concerns.

The campaign took a further twist when an information hack led to the release of a trove of documents related to the Macron campaign, which said some of the released documents were fraudulent. The release came at the start of France’s mandated media blackout on the final day before voting. The blackout ends at the close of the polls.

“Intervening in the last hour of the official campaign, this operation is obviously a democratic destabilization, as has already been seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” Macron’s campaign said Friday night. “The ambition of the authors of this leak is obviously to harm the movement En Marche! in the final hours before the second round of the French presidential election.”

The French Interior Ministry revealed 28.23 percent of the country’s eligible voters had cast their ballots by noon Sunday.

By Ben Hooper