- Macron and Le Pen qualify for second round: Projections
- Who is Emmanuel Macron, the centrist frontrunner?
- Why does the French Presidential Election matter to the UK?
- Marine Le Pen rides high in France’s bellwether town
- Gallery: French presidential elections 2017 – in pictures
- Got a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are set to face each other in a May 7 runoff for the French presidency after coming first and second in Sunday’s first round of voting, early projections have indicated.
In a race that was too close to call up to the last minute, Mr Macron, a pro-European Union ex-banker and economy minister who founded his own party only a year ago, was projected to get 24 percent by the pollster Harris and 23.7 percent by Elabe and Ipsos.
Ms Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration and anti-EU National Front, was given 22 percent by both institutes. Three further pollsters all projected broadly similar results.
Though Mr Macron, 39, is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, opinion polls in the run-up to the ballot have consistently seen him winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Ms Le Pen easily.
Defeated Socalist candidate Benoit Hamon urged voters to rally behind Mr Macron in the second round, as did senior conservative lawmaker Francois Baroin from the camp of defeated right-wing candidate Francois Fillon.
Harris gave both Mr Fillon and far-left contender Jean-Luc Melenchon 20 percent, which will mean their elimination from the race.
Mr Fillon had consistently been polling third in surveys leading up to the election. French senator and key Fillon supporter Roger Karoutchi told reporters: “The first indications are not good.”
Macron presidency ‘bad news for Britain, the euro and EU’
Analysis from Europe Editor Peter Foster:
For once there was no nasty election surprise for Europe’s political establishment – the pollsters had it spot-on. As predicted, the centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-Right Marine Le Pen will face off for the French presidency.
This news will have been greeted with glee in Brussels where Mr Macron – who is predicted by those same pollsters to win by a comfortable 20-point margin in two weeks time – is seen as a potential saviour of their troubled Union.
With his pledge to strengthen EU external borders with a 5,000 strong force, maintain the Schengen free-travel zone and appoint a finance minister for the eurozone, Mr Macron has pledged to start a “rebirth” of the European project.
But there are several hurdles in the way of Mr Macron before he can crank up Europe’s Franco-German motor, which has been sputtering badly these past two decades because of France’s continued failure to pass serious economic reforms.
To read the full article, CLICK HERE
A good election for the pollsters
If Ipsos’ estimates of the final vote are right, the pollsters have had a good election.
The final polling average had centrist Emmanuel Macron on 24 per cent and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 22.1 per cent. The other two significant candidates, Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, had 19.6 and 18.9 per cent respectively.
All four of these scores are within 0.5 percentage points of Ipsos’ voting estimate that was released as voting closed. If correct, this will grant pollsters some redemption after failing to predict the rise of Brexit and Donald Trump.
Macron addresses supporters
Emmanuel Macron raced on to stage, hand in hand with his wife, Brigitte Trogneux.
“The French people have expressed themselves,” he says. “It is an honour and a responsibility.”
He paid tribute to the other candidates, naming them and thanking them for their messages of support after a campaign “marked by terrorism”
Mr Macron, the youngest candidate to reach the presidential runoff in French history, thanked Mr Fillon and Mr Hamon for their support.
“I want to become the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists,” he said, promising to “bring together all French people”.
To supporters, he said: “In a year we have changed the face of French politics.”
Macron says he will never forget the energy that the public have put in to ensure his victory.
“You have showed us that in fact hope for our country was not a bubble or a dream, but a real determined will.”
“In two weeks, I hope I will be your president, the president of the whole of France, the president of the patriots,” – the term Marine Le Pen uses to refer to her supporters.
Mr Macron paid tribute to his wife Brigitte.
Mélenchon refuses to endorse any other candidate
Far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is regularly compared to Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, is speaking and he’s still not conceding. He says he will respect the results once they are certain.
Votes from France’s cities, where Mélenchon draws his support, aren’t yet in the tally.
He says he will not endorse any candidate for the second round of the election.
Mr Mélenchon tweeted shortly after that he did not have a mandate to comment on the second round.
Germany’s foreign minister hails projected result
Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has hailed projected results in France’s first-round presidential vote putting centrist Emmanuel Macron ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
The Social Democrat said he was “sure” Macron would be elected president in the run-off on May 7.
“I’m sure he will sweep away the far-right, right-wing populism and the anti-Europeans in the second round,” Mr Gabriel said in a video posted on Twitter during a trip to Jordan’s capital Amman, looking ahead to the decisive French presidential run-off on May 7.
The Social Democrat wrote on Twitter: “I’m glad that @EmmanuelMacron is leading the field. He was the only truly pro-European candidate.”
Mr Gabriel’s party had officially supported beleaguered French Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon – who was projected to finish with only around six percent of the vote – but party officials indicated they were more closely politically aligned with Macron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not yet reacted to the French results. Her spokesman had said in January that there was “not a single thing in common between the policies defended by (Le Pen’s) National Front and those of the chancellor”.
34 per cent of the vote counted
With 34 percent of the vote counted, France’s Interior Ministry says that far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is leading with 24.6 percent of the vote followed by centrist Emmanuel Macron with 21.9 percent.
The early vote count includes primarily rural constituencies that lean to the right, while urban areas that lean left are counted later, so this does not wipe out the earlier projection that has Mr Macron as the frontrunner.
Euro surges to highest in six months
Business reporter Tara Cunningham writes:
The euro surged to its highest level in almost six months minutes after early projections indicated that the runoff for the French presidency would come down to a second-round duel between independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Investors cheered the early projections, which were announced an hour before foreign exchange markets opened in Australia. The single currency, which jumped 1.6pc at the opening bell, quickly extended its gains, soaring by more than 2pc to $1.09395 against the US dollar.
Dean Turner, economist at UBS Wealth Management, said: “If these projections hold true, there will be some relief among investors that a mainstream candidate made it through to the second round.
“As things stand, Macron is on course to be the next French president, so it is likely that we see a recovery in risk appetite toward French and other European markets.”
It also enjoyed a relief rally against the pound, climbing 1.5pc to 85p per euro. Against the Japanese yen, it leapt 3pc to a five-week high of 120.64.
Mélenchon calls for restraint
Far-left contender Jean-Luc Mélenchon has called for restraint in a Facebook post where he appears to reject the early results.
“We don’t validate the score announced on the basis of polls,” he writes. “The results of the big cities are not yet known. I call for restraint”.
Francois Hollande congratulates Macron
French president François Hollande has congratulated Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Hollande’s office said he had called Mr Macron “to congratulate him” on reaching the runoff in which he will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen, according to projections, but did not explicitly endorse Mr Macron at this point.
Le Pen hails ‘historic result’ after reaching runoff
French far-Right leader Marine Le Pen has claimed victory in the first-round presidential race and says that her National Front party will represent “the great alternative” to the French people.
With a broad smile, Ms Le Pen has stood before an adoring crowd and pledged to open a much-needed debate on globalisation.
“The first step… has been taken. This result is historic,” Le Pen, 48, told supporters in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, declaring it “time to liberate the French people”.
“The major issue of this election is runaway globalisation, which is putting our civilisation in danger,” she said.
“The French have a very simple choice.
“Either we continue on the path of… offshoring jobs, unfair foreign competition, mass immigration and free movement of terrorists… or you chose France and borders that protect,” she added.
Le Pen has followed in the footsteps of her father Jean-Marie, who beat the Socialist candidate for a spot in the second round of the 2002 presidential election.
The elder Le Pen suffered a stinging defeat in the runoff, with the mainstream parties all closing ranks around the conservative, and ultimately victorious, Jacques Chirac.
Her speech ended with the French national anthem.
Le Pen has campaigned to leave the European Union, protect France’s borders, clamp down on immigration, and expel Islamic extremists.
Her success, along with that of centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron, leaves the May 7 runoff without a mainstream political candidate for the first time in modern French history.
… And here come the protests
Protesters angry that far-right leader Marine Le Pen is advancing the French presidential runoff are scuffling with police in Paris.
Crowds of young people, some from anarchist and “anti-fascist” groups, gathered on the Place de la Bastille in eastern Paris as results were coming in from the first-round vote.
Police fired tear gas to disperse an increasingly rowdy crowd. Riot police surrounded the area.
Protesters have greeted several of Le Pen’s campaign events, angry at her anti-immigration policies and her party, which she has sought to detoxify after a past tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.
Cazeneuve calls on voters to back Macron
France’s prime minister has called on voters to support centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron against far-Right rival Marine Le Pen in the country’s presidential election.
Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called for the defeat of Le Pen’s National Front party, in comments just after polling agencies projected the two advancing to the May 7 presidential runoff.
The announcement came moments after the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon conceded defeat. If the results hold, it would be the first time in modern French history that no major-party candidate has advanced to the presidential runoff.
Fillion: I will vote for Macron
Francois Fillon is conceding defeat. He has announced his intention to vote for Emmanuel Macron, to prevent Marine Le Pen from becoming president of France.
“This defeat is mine and mine alone. I take full responsibility”, said Mr Fillon, who called on the Right to remain united ahead of legislative elections in June.
Alluding to the fake jobs scandal that dogged his campaign, Fillon, once the frontrunner in the race, said he had faced obstacles that were “too numerous, too cruel”.
Declaring he would vote for Macron, Fillon said there was “no other option but to vote against the far right”.
‘Huge disappointment for Fillon’
Conservative candidate Francois Fillon’s elimination in the first round of the French presidential election is a “huge disappointment”, his campaign coordinator said Sunday.
“It’s a huge disappointment. The campaign was unable to address the difficulties of the French people and the record of (President) Francois Hollande,” said Bruno Retailleau after Mr Fillon failed to finish among the top two candidates.
‘Life is going to change’: Macron supporters explode with joy
David Chazan reports from Macron HQ in Paris:
Unknown to the public until two years ago and initially ruled out as a serious contender, Emmanuel Macron now stands on the threshold of the French presidency.
Thousands of his supporters and campaigners exploded with joy at a hall in western Paris, waving tricolour French flags and singing the national anthem, La Marseillaise, when the first partial results were announced.
If Mr Macron goes on to win the May 7 runoff against the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, as predicted by the polls, the fresh-faced 39-year-old political novice will be France’s first president from outside an established party in nearly a century.
An independent centrist who formed his own movement only a year ago, Mr Macron’s lightning ascent has belied doubts about his ability to win over “la France profonde,” the French heartlands.
He casts himself as an outsider who will shake up France’s traditionally bipartisan politics, but uphold democratic and civilised values against the “extremism” and “xenophobia” of Ms Le Pen.
Olivier Lecerf, 58, an advertising executive, said: “I’m really happy. His trajectory has been absolutely incredible. He’s created a political start-up and a completely new model. Throughout the campaign, he’s been attacked with a barrage of fake news and I’m glad that the French people have able to make their own mature judgement.”
Rachel-Flore Pardo, 23, a law student who for months has spent her free time handing out Mr Macron’s pamphlets and talking to voters on their doorsteps, said: “This is wonderful for us. All the work we’ve done has paid off.”
Eric Beala, 35, a computer engineer, said: “When I started working with his campaign a year ago, there wern’t many of us. Now there are a lot more. Life is going to change. This is a man who isn’t a traditional French politician. This is more American-style — I mean Obama, not Trump.”
A grinning Mr Macron waved to a crowd of jubilant supporters from the roof of his campaign headquarters. Thousands waiting for Mr Macron to appear at a hall in western Paris cheered and clapped when giant TV screens showed the conservative candidate, François Fillon, who was eliminated, calling on his supporters to vote for Mr Macron in the second round rather than Ms Le Pen.
Elimination of the mainstream ‘shows the deep malaise of French society’: Mayor of Lyon
The elimination of the two mainstream French parties from the first round of presidential elections showed the deep malaise of French society, a member of centrist Emmanuel Macron’s campaign says.
“When Macron started his campaign, they said that somebody who was not part of a major political party could not win the election. The fact that he did win shows a deep malaise in French society,” French senator Gerard Collomb, mayor of Lyon, said on France 2 television.
Wild response from Le Pen supporters
Rory Mulholland reports from Henin-Beaumont:
Rapturous applause and wild cheering broke out as Marie Le Pen fans at her northern redoubt of Henin-Beaumont when they learned she had made it through to the second round of the presidential election.
“She’s the only one who has the solutions to change France,” said one young supporter who gave her name as Amélie.
The crowd waved French tricolour flags and banners saying “Marine Présidente” and sang the national anthem and then chanted “On a gagné!” (We’ve won!).
They then waited for the candidate to arrive to make her victory speech and galvanise her voters for the second and final round on May 7.
Fans jubilant as Le Pen progresses to second round
Hamon: Vote for Macron
In fifth place with a paltry 6.2 per cent of the vote, the Socialist Party’s official candidate Benoît Hamon has called on his supporters to vote for Emmanuel Macron even if he “doesn’t represent the Left”, to block Marine Le Pen.
“I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic,” he said.
On the other side of the traditional political spectrum, former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a member of defeated candidate Francois Fillon’s The Republicans party, said: “Without hesitation, as far as I’m concerned we’ve got to rally behind Emmanuel Macron.”
Data suggests Macron will beat Le Pen in the second round
Here’s a nifty chart from Telegraph data journalist Ashley Kirk on what happens next:
If the second round is indeed a race between Macron and Le Pen, as the first results suggest, Macron is widely tipped to take the French presidency.
According to recent polling by Elabe, he would take 65 per cent of the vote in a second-round run-off against Le Pen.
It is expected that Macron – a centrist – should be able to attract a wider spectrum of second-round voters than Le Pen, pulling in left-leaning voters from Hamon and Mélenchon as well as those leaning to the right that voted Fillon in the first round.
Euro expected to surge
The euro is expected to surge when FX markets open in Sydney at 8pm, after French centrist Emmanuel Macron came out on top in the first round of France’s presidential election.
Early indications from Reuters data show the euro soaring to a four-week high of $1.09 against the dollar, up from Friday’s close of $1.0726.
‘Expect a very competitive race’
Mujtaba Rahman, head of Europe practice at the Eurasia Group risk consultancy, said that he now expects a “very competitive” race between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen.
Speaking to The Telegraph he said: “Although there is relief that at least one mainstream candidate has made it into the runoff, Le Pen will now turn the second round into a referendum on the status quo.
“Macron will be forced to defend immigration, the EU and openness, and these are all things French voters have become more suspicious of in recent years. We now expect a very competitive race over the next two weeks.”
Q: Do the Tories want France to leave the EU?
While we eagerly anticipate the results, we’ll take a moment to answer a reader question. This one comes from reader Geraldine Bird:
“Do you know if the Tories actually want France to leave the EU?”
Very good question. Peter Foster, Our Europe Editor, says:
In a word? ‘No’. Theresa May and her ministers have been very clear that they don’t want to find themselves negotiating a Brexit deal, on a very tight Article 50 timetable, with a disintegrating European Union.
Mrs May was explicit on this point when giving her big Lancaster House Brexit speech back in January.
She said: “I know many [in Europe] fear that this [Brexit] might herald the beginning of a greater unravelling of the EU. But let me be clear: I do not want that to happen. It would not be in the best interests of Britain. It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed.”
Marseille terror plot suspects formally charged
The two men suspected of plotting an “imminent” attack ahead of France’s presidential election were charged Sunday with terror offences, prosecutors said.
The foiled plot in Marseille sparked fears that the closing days of the campaign could be a target for extremists ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting in the country’s most unpredictable election in decades.
Elite police and intelligence agents arrested the two Frenchmen – 23-year-old Clement Baur and Mahiedine Merabet, 29 – on Tuesday in the Mediterranean port city.
Paris prosecutors said the men are accused of participating in a terrorist conspiracy as well as weapons charges.
After searching the suspects’ shared Marseille apartment, authorities said they uncovered an Uzi sub-machine gun, pistols, three kilogrammes (6.5 pounds) of TATP explosives and a homemade grenade as well as an Islamic State group flag.
Police had been searching for them since April 12 following the interception of a video in which they pledged allegiance to IS.
The men had used a number of aliases, switched mobile phones frequently and used pre-paid bank cards to evade police.
Two days after the arrests, 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi shot dead a policeman on Paris’s Champs Elysees avenue before being killed by police gunfire.
One hour to go to find out if traditional politics dissolving before our eyes
Peter Foster, Our Europe Editor writes:
With only an hour to go until the results of the French Presidential first round are declared, the initial forecasting and some private polling indicators suggest that the run-off will, as the polls predicted, be between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
If that does indeed turn out to be the case, it could be tempting to see a Macron – Le Pen run-off as in some way predictable, since the pre-vote pollsters will have been proved right.
But that would be to lose sight of the bigger picture – that for the first time since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958, neither of the two mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties (the Socialists and Republican parties) will have reached the run-off.
That will another massive sign that – as elections have shown in Austria, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain in recent times – the traditional centre-ground of European politics is dissolving before our eyes into a ill-defined mish-mash of personality and identity politics.
In an hour’s time we’ll find out if that is the case in France too.
Ifop predicts 81 per cent participation
Polling institute Ifop has published an estimate of what it thinks the final turnout will be, at a very reasonable 81 per cent.
While higher than the 79.5 per cent turnout in 2012 that saw François Hollande elected, it is around the average seen in French presidential elections.
Five of the nine elections since the first direct presidential election in 1965 have seen a higher turnout than this.
Two surveys published on Sunday suggest the final abstention rate is likely to be around 20 per cent, broadly in line with that of five years ago.
A survey from Harris Interactive estimated the final abstention rate at 21.5 percent, while one from Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match and CNews put the abstention rate at 19 percent.
The abstention rate was 20.52 percent in 2012, according to interior ministry figures.
Media flocks to Marine Le Pen’s heartland
Rory Mulholland is in Henin-Beaumont:
Hundreds of journalists from around world are queuing to get in to the hall where Marine Le Pen is due to make her speech tonight after her victory or defeat in the first round poll.
The hall is in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, where she has a home and where she voted this morning.
Henin-Beaumont is in a Front National heartland, a “rustbelt” where the coal mines closed long ago and the factories moved abroad.
Many of Ms Le Pen’s voters are people who previously voted leftwing but have switched to her far-Right party, after feeling let down or ignored by the ruling Socialist party.
One irony that must be galling for Ms Le Pen is that the hall where she is to speak this evening is called the “François Mitterrand Centre” after the late Socialist president.
Le Pen’s poster faux pas
Henry Samuel, in Paris, reports:
Front National leader Marine Le Pen’s party made a faux pas abroad by failing to deliver posters in time for them to appear outside polling stations, the French foreign ministry has said.
“The posters for the candidate Marine Le Pen were not provided so the corresponding poster board is empty,” the ministry said.
“The posters are printed by the candidates themselves and it is up to them to hand them in to the electoral commission before the deadline [of 10 April].”
France has around 1.3 voters registered voters abroad – around 2 per cent of the total electorate.
From the photographs, it appears candidate posters don’t fare so well in any case…
But why am I reading this?
Why does the French election matter? If you’re coming into to this without too much background, which is totally understandable given Britain’s facing it’s own election in a matter of weeks, here’s just a few reasons why the French election is worth paying attention to:
Risk of ‘Frexit’
Most of the 11 candidates are campaigning against the European Union, blamed for myriad woes. Two with a chance at the presidency, far-right Marine Le Pen and far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, could seek to pull France out of the union and its shared euro currency altogether.
A French exit of either would be far more far-reaching than Britain’s – it could spell death for the EU, the euro and the whole idea of European unity borne from the blood of World War II. France is a founding member of the EU, and its main driver along with former rival Germany.
Financial markets are already jittery over a possible Frexit, fearing controls on money transfers, capital flight, a plague of defaults and lawsuits on bonds and contracts. Ms Le Pen’s team downplays apocalyptic scenarios, arguing that the euro is headed for a breakup eventually anyway.
Ms Le Pen and Mr Melenchon also blame free trade pacts for killing French jobs and want to renegotiate them, which would cause a financial tangle for the rest of the EU and France’s trade partners.
Trump and populism
If Ms Le Pen or Mr Melenchon reach the second round, it will be seen as a clear victory for the populist wave reflected by the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit. Many French workers who have lost out because of globalisation are similarly fed up with establishment parties and especially attracted by promises of ditching the status quo.
Alternatively, if neither candidate makes it past Sunday’s first round into the May 7 runoff, that’s a clear message that populist nationalism is receding.
Centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon are committed to European unity and would reform labor rules but not make any drastic moves. Mr Macron has framed himself as a bulwark against Trump’s protectionism.
Assad’s Syria and Putin’s Russia
A nuclear power with a seat on the UN Security Council and tens of thousands of troops around the world, France is a key US ally in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) group and major diplomatic player.
Mr Macron would likely keep up the French operations against extremists in Iraq and Syria and Africa’s Sahel region – and keep up pressure on Russia over Ukraine and its actions to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The other three front-runners, on the other hand, had supported restoring dialogue with Assad to find a political solution for Syria. Ms Le Pen firmly backs Assad and distanced herself from Trump over recent US airstrikes targeting Assad’s regime.
Ms Le Pen also met recently with President Vladimir Putin and would push for lifting sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.
Mr Fillon too has been friendly with Mr Putin in the past, but has taken a harder stance lately – notably since chemical weapon attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
A breakdown of scenarios
The Crosstab, an election data and political statistics blog run by George Elliott Morris has created this breakdown of possible scenarios in rounds one and two of the election. They’ve done this by running simulations based on the results of a collection of polls. Their estimates all point to Emmanuel Macron becoming French president.
If you’re confused at all about how this works, here’s the Telegraph’s simple explainer of how the French presidential election works:
Meanwhile in London… Huge queues to vote
From London to Berlin, Washington to Tel Aviv, French voters lined up at polling stations abroad to cast their ballots.
Around 1.3 million French people abroad are registered to vote – representing around two percent of the total electorate.
In London – often called the sixth biggest French city – hundreds of people queued up outside the two polling stations well before they opened on Sunday, with some waiting up to two hours to vote.
“In London, we’re expecting perhaps 50,000 voters, so it’s going to be a busy day,” said Edouard De Guitaut, in charge of a polling station at a French school in London’s upmarket South Kensington.
“I have dual nationality, so I voted against Brexit. I think it’s really important to vote everywhere, because I’m affected everywhere,” said student Elise Lauriot Prevost.
One brave voter had just finished the London Marathon:
Shooting in western France ‘not terror related’, as false alerts see several polling stations evacuated
From David Chazan in Paris:
A man was injured by gunfire in Rouen, western France, as million of French voters cast their ballots in the presidential election, three days after the murder of a policeman in Paris.
Local media reported that the man was injured in the legs and rushed to hospital after “at least two shots” were fired in the city centre. The shooter was reported to be on the run.
Initial reports suggested that the incident was not terror-related but arose from a dispute between two people who knew each other.
Earlier security scares led to the evacuation of several polling stations around the country but all turned out to be false alerts.
Voting was briefly suspended at two polling stations in the eastern town of Besançon after a car was driven very slowly towards one of them, and then abandoned with its engine running.
A rifle was found inside, but Le Parisien newspaper reported that it was not terror-related but a “common law case”.
In Saint-Omer, northern France, two polling stations were evacuated and a security cordon was set up after a suspicious car was spotted, the Voix du Nord newspaper reported. Bomb disposal experts checked the car and gave the all-clear.
In Haguenau, eastern France, a cool box was found with electrical wires protruding from it about 60 metres from a polling station. Water was sprayed on it and it was found to be empty.
In Paris, a polling station in the 20th arrondissement was briefly closed after a car considered suspicious was parked nearby. It was checked and voting resumed after about 20 minutes.
Turnout at noon was 28.54 per cent, a slight increase from the first round of the previous presidential election in 2012.
About 55,000 police officers are guarding polling stations after a Paris policeman was shot dead on the Champs-Elysées on Thursday in an attack claimed by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) group.
Who will win in France’s bellwether town that always backs the winning president?
Paris correspondent Henry Samuel visited Donzy this week to find out which way the wind was blowing:
As the countdown commences to France’s most unpredictable presidential election in modern times, a small town in deepest Burgundy has become the focus of intense national scrutiny because it always reflects the national vote.
Donzy, population 1660, is France’s electoral equivalent of Basildon, seen as Britain’s ultimate political bellwether, having voted for the winning party at each general election since it became a constituency in 1974.
Surrounded by farms producing goat’s cheese and foie gras, the medieval town is in many ways textbook “France profonde”, boasting a church, two doctors, a butcher, two bakers, three cafes, three schools and a retirement home. There are two factories making drinking straws and umbrellas on the outskirts and a football pitch.
Since 1981, Donzy has reflected the French vote in seven presidential elections with sometimes pinpoint accuracy.
CLICK HERE to read the Henry’s full dispatch and find out who the residents of Donzy are likely to vote for.
Bonjour tout le monde!
Welcome to the Telegraph’s live coverage of the first round of the French presidential election. Our correspondents in France are Henry Samuel and David Chazan in Paris and Rory Mulholland in Henin-Beaumont. They are joined by assistant foreign news editor Louise Burke in London, who will also field any questions you have via email: email@example.com.
We’re excited to keep you up to date with all the thrills and spills of Sunday evening as the results come in. We’ll also be sharing live analysis from Europe Editor Peter Foster a little later in the afternoon.
Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron leading the race as polls open
Rory Mulhollandreports from Paris:
Polls have opened in the first round of France’s most unpredictable and high-stakes presidential election in decades, with far-Right leader Marine Le Pen and the maverick centrist Emmanuel Macron leading the field.
A Le Pen victory could lead to the collapse of the European Union, experts warn, but after the victory of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in Britain most agree that there is no safe bet in the French race.
Unprecedented security measures were in place to keep voters safe as they cast their ballots, with 50,000 police officers and 7,000 soldiers deployed across the country.
Voting began just three days after a French jihadist shot dead a policeman on the Champs Elysées in Paris, fuelling pre-election jitters and pushing security and terror back to the top of the political agenda.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) claimed the attack, as it has done for a series of assaults in France that began in early 2015 and cost the lives of more than 230 people.
At a polling station in a primary school on Rue Martel in the trendy 10th arrondissement of Paris, there were no police on duty and no security checks.
Parisians doing their civic duty there before shopping for lunch said they were undeterred by terror threats.
“I’m 85 and I lived through the war and the Nazi occupation, so I’m not scared,” said Gerard Samson, a retired film-maker.
Mr Samson said he had been a life-long supporter of the Socialist party but, as the Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has little chance of getting elected, he was conflicted.
“This is the first time I have had to hesitate” before casting his ballot, he said, declining to say who he had plumped for.
There are 11 candidates in the running for Sunday’s first round, including a pair of Trotskyists, three fringe nationalists, a former shepherd, and a man who wants to colonise Mars.
But there are just four who stand a chance of getting through to the run-off on May 7: Ms Le Pen, Mr Macron, the communist-backed firebrand Jean-Luc-Mélenchon, and the scandal-scarred conservative François Fillon.
The pair who will square off for the second round will be known at around 7pm UK when projections based on partial results will be announced.
One of the last opinion polls before campaigning was brought to an early halt by the killing of the policeman in Paris showed that Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron were tied on 23 per cent, with both Mr Mélenchon on 19.5 per cent and Mr Fillon on 19 per cent snapping at their heels.
But due to the margin of error pollsters factor in, any pair from those four could make it through to the second round to battle it out to replace the deeply unpopular Socialist President François Hollande, who failed to end mass unemployment or turn around the country’s ailing economy.
The uncertainty is heightened by polls showing that one in three of the 47 million registered voters remained undecided just days before the vote.
The results of the French elections are being keenly watched across the world, with many experts predicting that a victory by Ms Le Pen, 48, who says she will pull France out of the euro, might spark chaos in the financial markets and could lead to the collapse of the EU.
If Ms Le Pen or Mélenchon – who both rail against globalisation – make it to the runoff, this will be seen as a victory for the populist wave reflected by the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit. But if neither candidate makes it through, that would be interpreted as a clear sign that populist nationalism is finally receding.
Mr Trump weighed in to the French political debate after the Paris attack on Thursday, saying the shooting would “probably help” the anti-EU and anti-immigrant Ms Le Pen because she is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
“Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election,” he said of the candidate who said that she will hold a referendum on taking France out of the EU if the bloc doesn’t carry out radical reform.
Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, came out for Mr Macron, telling the 39-year-old former Socialist finance minister in a phone call he should “work hard all the way through because you never know, it might be that last day of campaigning that makes all the difference.”
Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and founder of her Front National party, made it through to the second round of the 2002 presidential election but was then crushed by the conservative Jacques Chirac after both left- and right-wing voters rallied together to keep the far-Right leader out of the Elysée.
Polls predict that this will likely happen again if Ms Le Pen reaches the May 7 runoff, but this would be complicated if she were up against Mr Mélenchon, 65, whose old-school socialist agenda is anathema to many centrist and conservative voters.
Intelligence services have warned that riots could break out in cities across France after results of the first round are announced on Sunday evening.
Trouble is almost certain if the pair squaring off for the second round are Ms Le Pen and Mr Mélenchon, they said.
An intelligence report leaked to Le Parisien newspaper spoke of “public disturbances in the case of the presence [in the second round] of parties which are said to be extremist,” a reference to Ms Le Pen and Mr Mélenchon.
“In this case, protests are almost certainly to be expected,” said the document, which also warned of farmers, hospital staff and students taking to the streets to protest the results.