French Election: Four candidates still in contention as voting begins

Voting is open in France's unpredictable election
Voting is open in France's unpredictable election

It's decision time for French voters in the first round of their presidential election. Max Liu reports on the latest developments and explains when we can expect the result of this most unpredictable of contests...

"Le Pen 1.51/2 to win the first round but Macron is 1.684/6 to win the presidency."

Voting is under way in the first round of France's presidential election, with 47 million registered voters casting their ballots in one of the most unpredictable contests in living memory. There are 11 candidates running for president and, with almost a third of French voters reportedly still making up their minds this week, Francois Fillon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Melenchon all have a realistic chance of being one of the two to make the final on May 7.

On Betfair, the Front National's Le Pen and the centrist Macron are 1.674/6 to be the final two. That's consistent with many polls, which have put them neck and neck in recent weeks, but few pundits are confidently predicting the outcome. Le Pen and the Republican candidate Fillon is 4.47/2, while you can get 6.05/1 on the left-wing candidate Melenchon making the final two. Le Pen 1.51/2 to win the first round but Macron is 1.684/6 to win the presidency.

Will the Champs Elysee shooting result in a swing to the right?

The race for the Elysee Palace has been full of surprises. From Fillon's selection as Republican candidate to the emergence of Macron as the frontrunner, there have been twists and turns at every stage. On Thursday night, France was subjected to the kind of tragedy that's been all too common in recent years, when a Parisian policeman was shot, and two others injured, by a gunman whom Islamic State claim was working for them.

Security has been a theme of the election campaign, following the horrific attacks in Paris and Nice of the past couple of years, and politicians on the right - Fillon and Le Pen - have pledged to address the problem by reducing immigration. For Le Pen, this would involve holding a Brexit-style referendum on France's membership of the European Union.

As news of the attack in Paris broke on Thursday night, the 11 candidates were taking part in their final live televised debate. Le Pen and Fillon both adapted their closing statements to argue that France needs a more authoritarian leader to defeat terrorism. Macron, who the right argue would be a soft touch on security, has since accused Le Pen and Fillon of trying to exploit the attack.

In 2015, Le Pen received a considerable poll bounce after the Bataclan attack, so it's inevitable that the Front National would try to make the most of Thursday night's events. So far, it's had little impact on the betting. It's true that Le Pen has gone from around 1.910/11 to around 1.68/13 to win the first round but, at the same time, Macron has shortened from evens to 1.684/6 to be the next president.

When will the results be announced?

There's been much talk of voter disaffection during the election campaign. Le Pen, for one, is trying to appeal to "forgotten France" - the people of small towns and rural communities that, like many areas that voted Leave in the UK's referendum last summer, complain of feeling ignored by the political elite. She's urging her supporters to turn out on Sunday, but will they heed her call?

Close elections usually make for high turnouts and around 80% voted in France's last presidential election. Betfair's turnout market is wide open, with 76-79% the narrow 3.052/1 favourite.

Regardless of how many people vote, we won't have to wait long to learn the result. Unlike the British, the French don't make voters sit up all night, drinking black coffee and anxiously watching pundits leap about giant holographic electoral maps. The result of today's first round should be announced at around 19:00 BST.

After that, the candidates who finished first and second will get straight back on the campaign trail and start trying to hoover up votes from the eliminated candidates in time for the final on May 7.


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