After months of campaigning, the French people will cast their final vote in the country’s hard-fought presidential election on Sunday (May 7). The world is watching to see whether France will—like the UK and the US before it—turn toward far-right populism, or veer away from it. Here’s what you you need to know:
The first round of the French election, which included 11 candidates from across the political spectrum and concluded on April 23, whittled the field down to two candidates: far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has run the National Front party, and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who broke from the Socialists to found his own party a year ago.
Polling stations will be open from 8am until 7pm central European time (CET), staying open till 8pm in large cities like Paris.
For all the comparison with Brexit and Trump, polls put Macron far ahead of Le Pen. One reason to believe the polls: they did get it right in the first round.
That doesn’t mean Le Pen can’t win. Pundits say that, after the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was eliminated, many voters would rather abstain than vote for either of the remaining candidates. That could swing the result. But nobody knows if that would be enough for Le Pen to pull it off.
French media aren’t allowed to publish exit polls before voting closes at 8pm local time. International media don’t need to follow those rules.
By 11pm CET, most votes should be in. It’s likely that we will know who won before that, if there haven’t been problems at polling places in compiling official tallies.
Whoever wins won’t become president immediately. The exact date is yet to be announced, but it’s likely to be around May 22. As we reported earlier, Hollande will welcome his successor to Élysée Palace for the handover, after which the new president makes a traditional trip to Paris City Hall.