Feature: French voters head to polls for runoff presidential election

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-07 16:50:01|Editor: liuxin
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A woman casts her vote at the city hall in Le Touquet, France, May 7, 2017. Polling stations opened on France's European mainland on Sunday for a decisive round of the presidential election between centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-rightist Marine Le Pen. (Xinhua/Chen Yichen)

PARIS, May 7 (Xinhua) -- On a grey and rainy Sunday morning, millions of French voters started to return to the polling stations for a final decision on who is going to lead the country for the next five year.

The choice is between centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-rightist Marine Le Pen.

At a polling station in an elementary school in Paris northern suburbs, white voting papers with the name of the two finalists, were stacked on the tables, ready for people to take into the voting booth.

The volunteering staff were welcoming the first comers under the watch of gendarmes deployed to ensure a smooth voting in a context of high security risk.

Wahiba, a nursery assistant of Algerian origin, is a Greens faithful but switched to the centrist candidate given the absence of the ecologists in the presidency race.

"I think Macron is the less worst among all the candidates. Le Pen's proposals make me worried about the future of our children. I choose Macron," she told Xinhua.

To Telly, a supporter of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was defeated in first round, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"I voted for Macron. He showed that he can govern by gathering all the French regardless their cultural, origin and religion differences," the young woman said.

In presidential runoff, nearly 47 million voters are expected to cast their ballots, choosing between the two candidates with very different political stands.

Dubbed himself as "the candidate for jobs," Macon invited electorate from various political views to endorse his pro-business projects and plans to revive the European project.

On the other hand, proposing a strict opposite program based on protectionist approaches, his rival Le Pen promised voters a return to the national currency and tightening internal borders to restore security.

Stephane, a taxi driver, said he voted for the anti-establishment candidate Le Pen in a "punishment vote" over "failed policies of mainstream parties" that dominated the French political landscape for decades.

"The right or the left are the two faces of the same coin. They pledged a lot but did little for people. And even Macron is following their path. So, I'm supporting Le Pen who is proposing something different," he said.

A retired voter who refused to be named shared the same view.

"Why we don't let the far-right test its policy on the ground? Maybe it can succeed in what the so-called major parties failed to do," he said.

In the April 23 first round vote, former economy minister Macron led the 11-candidates list with 24.01 percent of votes, outpacing his rival far-rightist Le Pen, whose score stood at 21.30 percent.

Opinion polls before the vote estimated Macron is on the course to win the presidential race by an advantage of 20 points.

After a campaign overshadowed by a series of twists, the 2017 French election is one of the most unpredictable in the country's modern history, as growing public disenchantment forced many voters to turn their backs on the mainstream parties or even refuse to make a choice.

The mystery will be resolved on Sunday evening after the closure of the more than 66,000 polling stations on France's European mainland at 20:00 local time (1800 GMT) in big cities, and at 19:00 (1700 GMT) in other places.

In the meantime, a new question will emerge -- whether the new president can keep the promises and lead France out of the current economic gloom and social strains?