France prepares to vote for new President amid high security

Indo Asian News Service

Paris, April 23 (IANS) France is preparing to elect its new President on Sunday, amid high security after a series of terror attacks including a fatal assault on a Paris policeman three days ago.

Voting for the first round will begin at 8.00 a.m.

About 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers have been deployed around the country after Thursday's terror attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group, BBC reported.

Eleven aspirants are vying to be the country's next President, with leading candidates spanning the political spectrum from far-left to far-right.

The two with the most votes will go to run-off round in a fortnight's time.

Four candidates are currently seen as being within reach of the Elysee palace: the conservative Francois Fillon, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The candidates have created plenty of debate in the country, all offering dramatically different visions of Europe, immigration, the economy and French identity.

National security had been one of the main talking points during the campaigns, but candidates have been accused of exploiting the Thursday attack for political gains.

The race between the leading contenders is considered too close to call.

However, none are expected to get the 50 per cent of votes required for an outright win.

A second round between the top two will be held on 7 May.

Fillon is the only one among the leading contenders from an established party of government.

Benoit Hamon, the socialist candidate from the same party as the current President, is seen as out of the running.

President Francois Hollande is not seeking a second term, and is the first French President in modern history not to do so.

As voters on Sunday walk into their bureau de vote, many will still be undecided, faced with paper slips for an unprecedented 11 nominees.

According to the Guardian, Benoit Hamon faces a crushing defeat in the first round, ending his leadership dreams and putting the future of the country's Socialist Party (PS) in question.

Since the French Revolution, the country has been governed by various manifestations of one of two camps: right or left.

The divide, known as the clivage gauche-droite, emerged from the turbulent summer of 1789, when the first national constituent assembly was formed.

An analyst believes this presidential election marks the end of "traditional" parties.

Pascal Perrineau, president of Sciences Po's respected political research institute, Cevipof, said: "The PS no longer has a structure, a goal or respect, and has become irreconcilable."

--IANS

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