World Bulletin / News Desk
Polls in French presidential elections closed Sunday for the first round with a lower abstention rate than feared earlier.
Most of 69,000 polling stations closed at 07.00 p.m. local time (0500GMT), while others in some big cities at 08.00 p.m. (0600GMT).
Voter turnout at midday was 28.5 percent, according to the French interior ministry, up from 28.2 percent in the 2012 presidential election.
At 05.00 pm (0300GMT), the Ministry said that 69.42 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots, compared to 70.6 percent in 2012, but considerably up than 2002 with the abstention rate reaching a record level at 28 percent, when the then National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, made it to the run-off before he was beaten by conservative candidate Jacques Chirac.
Approximately 45.7 million voters in mainland France and overseas were eligible to vote.
Voting commenced Saturday morning in the French island of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, French Polynesia in the South Pacific and Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique in the Caribbean, as well as in U.S. states and Canada.
French Interior Ministry estimates expat voters at 1.3 million, making them a sizable portion of the entire electorate.
A run-off is slated for May 7 between the top two out of the 11 presidential hopefuls.
According to a survey released by Elabe on Friday morning, the centrist, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron could lead the first-round voting with 24 percent, closely followed by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen with 21.5 percent.
Conservative candidate Francois Fillon ranks third with 20 percent and far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon fourth with 19.5 percent.
The candidate of the struggling ruling Socialist Party, Benoit Hamon, already seems to be out of the race.
All recent polls point out that this election is too close to call with the four frontrunners representing opposite poles, making it the most unpredictable contest in years.
Voters cast their ballots under high-security measures after Thursday’s terrorist shooting in the French capital, which left a police officer and gunman dead.
According to the ministry, 50,000 officers were stationed at the 69,000 polling stations set up across the nation and overseas.
Some local media reported that security authority the DCSP had sent an inside memo warning of a "constant and pregnant" threat of violence during the election.
France's new president will be formally confirmed by mid-May.
The presidential election will be followed by a two-round legislative election to select the French parliament in June.Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Nisan 2017, 00:01