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France Votes With Macron Seeking New Term In Tight Election

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron faced a tough test Sunday seeking re-election in a vote projected to produce a tight run-off with far-right leader Marine Le Pen.  Polls opened in mainland France at 0600 GMT after an unusual campaign overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that analysts warned could lead to unpredictable outcomes with turnout a major factor. French overseas territories already voted Saturday to take account of the time difference, starting with the tiny island of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Canada and then territories in the Caribbean followed by French Pacific islands. “It’s important to vote, that’s when you choose between the good and the bad. After all, the president will run your life,” said Annette Tehariki, a 57-year-old voting in French Polynesia. Polls predict that Macron will lead Le Pen by a handful of percentage points in round one, with the top two going through to a second-round vote on April 24.  Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is snapping at their heels in third place and still fancies his chances of reaching the second round at the expense of Le Pen or even — in what would be an extraordinary upset — President Macron himself.  Although her opponents accuse her of being an extremist bent on dividing society, Le Pen has with some success during the campaign sought to show a more moderate image and concern with voters’ daily worries such as rising prices.  Macron by contrast has campaigned relatively little, by his own admission entering the election campaign later than he would have wished due to the war in Ukraine.  French television channels will broadcast projections of the final results, which are generally highly accurate, as soon as polls close at 1800 GMT Sunday. If Macron and Le Pen as forecast reach the second round, analysts predict that their clash will be far tighter than in 2017 when the current president thrashed his rival with 66 percent of the vote. “There is uncertainty,” said French political scientist Pascal Perrineau, pointing to unprecedentedly high numbers of voters who were still undecided or who changed their minds during the campaign as well as absentee voters.