Overseas polls open ahead of presidential election in France

French citizens living overseas began casting their ballots in the first round of the presidential elections a day ahead of the vote in France.

Supporters cheer centrist candidate for the 2017 French presidential election Emmanuel Macron during a campaign rally in Paris on April 17, 2017. Overseas voters began to cast their ballots in various French territories on Saturday ahead of the mainland votes on Sunday. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo
Supporters cheer centrist candidate for the 2017 French presidential election Emmanuel Macron during a campaign rally in Paris on April 17, 2017. Overseas voters began to cast their ballots in various French territories on Saturday ahead of the mainland votes on Sunday. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo

Voters in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the French archipelago south of the Canadian island of Newfoundland, Guiana in South America and French Polynesia began voting on Saturday.

French islands Reunion and Mayotte were scheduled to begin voting on Sunday two hours and one hour earlier than the mainland respectively.

The overseas votes are set to be collected and sent to France early to prevent overseas voters from being influenced by the results of the mainland due to time differences.

A blackout on opinion polls was also issued in France at midnight on Friday.

Two out of the eleven eligible candidates will be selected to participate in a runoff vote on May 5.

Emmanuel Macron of the centralist En Marche! party, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Nationalist party and Francois Fillon of the center-right Republican party are among the more popular candidates for the presidency.

France promised tight security at the ballots, including tens of thousands of police and other security personnel on duty, as tensions rose and the threat of terrorism became a focal point prior to the election.

A knife-wielding man was arrested after causing a panic in Gare du Nord train station in Paris on Saturday, two days after a man shot a police officer dead and injured two others in Paris.

On April 19, French police also arrested two men on suspicion of planning a violent attack during the election after it was found they had an apartment hideout containing firearms and explosives.

By Daniel Uria