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Hour of reckoning as France goes to poll

Security personnel help voters in Le Touquet, northern France

BY BBC/KORIR JUMA,22ND APRIL 2017-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 are being 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.

Four candidates are currently 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.

François Fillon, Benoît Hamon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron and 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.

National security had been 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.However, no candidate is expected to get the 50% of votes required for an outright win.

A second round between the top two will be held on 7 May.

Mr Fillon is the only one among the leading contenders from an established party of government.

 

 

Some overseas voters – including this woman at the French consulate in New York – have already cast their ballots

 

Thousands of soldiers are joining tens of thousands of police on duty/AFP

Benoît Hamon, the socialist candidate from the same party as the current president, is seen as out of the running.

The unpopular President François Hollande is not seeking a second term, and is the first French president in modern history not to do so.

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