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Voting underway in France as Macron and Le Pen battle for presidency

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rench citizens have begun voting in the presidential race between Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen.

Front-runner Mr Macron holds a narrow lead over the National Rally leader, according to polling.

However, some commentators say that public apathy could mean the contest is closer than predicted.

People prepare to vote in the second round of the 2022 French presidential election at a polling station in Lyon,

/ REUTERS

Mr Macron warned supporters at a final rally on Friday night to turn out for him so France can avoid a Brexit-stye “hangover”.

Ms Le Pen’s campaign has been dogged by accusations of racism and ties to the Kremlin, which were exacerbated as fresh allegations emerged that her party was paying £10million to a Russian military contractor under US sanctions as settlement of a loan.

Polls predicted a narrow lead for Mr Macron when campaigning ended on Friday, with the incumbent ahead of Le Pen by 56.6 per cent to 43.5 per cent.

If Mr Macron triumphs he will become the first French president in 20 years to win a second term in office.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are seen on campaign posters

/ AFP via Getty Images

Polling stations opened at 8am local time on Sunday and close at 7pm in most places, apart from big cities that have chosen to keep stations open until 8pm.

Polls forecast a possibly record-high number of people who will either cast a blank vote or not vote at all.

On the campaign trail, Mr Macron condemned Ms Le Pen’s endorsement of “extreme right” policies including her proposal to outlaw Muslims from wearing headscarves in public.

Following an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2017, Ms Le Pen has sought to soften her image and focused her campaign on the cost of living crisis. She has also abandoned more hardline policies which have proved divisive, including leaving the eurozone.

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