French Citizens Head to the Polls to Choose a New Leader

Amid high security, France will pick a new leader today.

Voting have begun for the presidential election in a tense first-round poll. The election is being regarded as a test for the spread of populism around the world. Especially after a year of surprising election results.

More than 60,000 polling stations opened amid tight security across the country on Sunday. The election of coarse following another terrorist attack on Wednesday. The attack left a police officer dead and three others wounded. Even without that tragedy, France would be on high alert given the number of attacks it has faced in the last few years.

While polls suggest Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron are in the lead; Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Melenchon were quickly closing the gap.

In Paris, voters lined up early at polling stations. The French government has mobilized more than 50,000 police and gendarmes to protect polling stations. An additional 7,000 soldiers are also on patrol.

While opinion polls showed a tight race among the four top contenders, they also showed that decision was largely in the hands of the one-in-three voters who are still undecided.

France’s high unemployment rate, stagnant economy and security issues are at the top of voters’ concerns.

Far-reaching effects.

When the French vote for president, their choice will resonate far beyond France’s borders. With issues of immigration, terrorism, and economics at the forefront of world-wide politics, the person chosen will face murky waters and hard decisions.

The election is also widely being viewed as a sign for the future of the 28-nation European Union. The Le Pen and Melenchon could pull France out of the bloc, a so-called “Frexit.” Should the French exit, it could ignite a death spiral for the EU, the euro and the whole idea of European unity.

If Le Pen or Melenchon win a spot in the runoff, it will be seen as a victory for the populist wave. However, if neither candidate progresses past Sunday’s first round into the runoff, that’s a clear message that populist nationalism is receding.

While this is not the final vote, it will be an indication of things to come. The world watches once again as an election shapes the world. Whether it be for better or worse, only the French can decide.

 

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