French voters decide between Le Pen and Macron

News Hour:

French voters are to choose their next president after an unpredictable campaign that has divided the country.

The second round contest pits centrist Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, against the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, 48.

Citizens in some overseas territories and many French expats abroad have begun voting.

The polls open in metropolitan France at 08:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday and close at 19:00 (17:00 GMT).

Polling stations will remain open in some big cities until 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT), with early estimates of the result due to be reported immediately after they close.

The two candidates, who topped a field of 11 presidential hopefuls in the first round election on 23 April, have offered voters starkly different visions of France.

Mr Macron, a liberal centrist, is pro-business and a strong supporter of the European Union (EU), while Ms Le Pen campaigned on a France-first, anti-immigration programme.

She wants France to abandon the euro in the domestic economy, and hold a referendum on France’s EU membership.

Mr Macron is widely expected to win the vote, but analysts have said high abstention rates could damage his chances.

The run-off will be keenly watched across Europe, ahead of elections in Germany and the UK and as Britain negotiates its exit from the EU.

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