Overseas voters kick off crucial French presidential election

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French overseas territories and residents in some U.S. states such as Hawaii began voting on Saturday in the French presidential election, a day ahead of a main first-round vote that could change the global political landscape.

Of 47 million registered French voters, there are fewer than a million resident in far-flung places like French Polynesia in the South Pacific and Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique in the Caribbean. They vote early so as not to be influenced by the mainland results due on Sunday evening at around 1800 GMT, reports Reuters.

The first round will send two of 11 candidates into a run-off vote in two weeks time to pick a new president for France, a core member of the European Union and the NATO alliance, a permanent member of the United Nations Security council, and the world’s fifth largest economy.

With two anti-globalisation candidates whose policies could break up the European Union among the four frontrunners, the vote is of major significance to the international political status quo and to investment markets.

Coming after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and after the ‘Brexit’ decision of British voters to quit the EU, few experts dare rule out a shock, and all of the likely outcomes will usher in a period of political uncertainty in France.

Polls make centrist and pro-European Emmanuel Macron the favorite, but he has no established party of his own and is a relatively unknown political quantity.

His three close rivals, according to voting surveys, are the anti-EU, anti-immigration National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who would dump the euro currency and return to national ones, far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who wants France to rip up international trade treaties and quit NATO, and the conservative Francois Fillon, whose reputation has been sullied by a nepotism scandal.

“The election of either Le Pen or Melenchon would put Paris on a fast-track collision course with (EU officials in) Brussels),” said James Shields, professor of French politics at Aston University in Britain.

“The election of Marine Le Pen would make Brexit look trivial by comparison.”

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