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French voters begin casting ballots in presidential election
French voters began casting ballots for the presidential election Sunday in a tense first-round poll that's seen as a test for the spread of populism around the world.
Over 60,000 polling stations opened at 0600 GMT for voters who will choose between 11 candidates in the most unpredictable election in decades.
Opinion polls point to a tight race among the four leading contenders vying to advance to the May 7 presidential runoff, when the top two candidates face off.
Polls suggest far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead. But conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister, who was embroiled in a scandal over alleged fake jobs appeared to be closing the gap, as was far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Security was tight after a deadly attack on the Champs-Elysees on Thursday in which a police officer and a gunman were slain.
The vote "is really important, mainly because we really need a change in this country with all the difficulties we are facing and terrorism," said Paris resident Alain Richaud, who was waiting to cast his vote.