France votes for new president amid high security

373 desk, April 23: Voters are going to the polls in France to choose their next president, amid high security following a deadly attack on Paris police three days ago.

About 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers have been deployed across the country to secure polling.

Eleven candidates are vying to be the next president, with candidates spanning the political spectrum.

If, as expected, no-one wins 50%, the two with the most votes will go to a run-off round in a fortnight’s time.

Polling stations in France opened at 08:00 local time (06:00 GMT), although some overseas territories began the voting on Saturday. Voting ends at 20:00, with exit polls expected quickly afterwards.

Turnout by noon was 28.54% of the electorate, slightly up on the corresponding 2012 figure of 28.29%.

Four candidates are seen as being within reach of the presidency: the conservative François Fillon, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The candidates have created plenty of debate in the country, all offering dramatically different visions of Europe, immigration, the economy and French identity.

Extra security measures are in place on polling day after Karim Cheurfi, a convicted criminal, shot a police officer in the head on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Cheurfi was killed by security forces and a note defending the so-called Islamic State group was found near his body.

The election is taking place under a state of emergency, which was imposed following the attacks in Paris in November 2015.

Security was one of the main talking points during the campaign, but candidates have been accused of exploiting the most recent attack for political gains.

The race between the leading contenders is considered too close to call.

Source: Agencies