French vote in London in cliffhanger presidential election

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French nationals living in London cast their votes in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday (April 10).

After a first term mired in social unrest – during which French President Emmanuel Macron took steps to liberalise France’s labour laws, cut taxes on the wealthy and businesses, and tried to reconfigure trans-Atlantic relations – the margins are much tighter than the drubbing he delivered to the far right’s Marine Le Pen in 2017.

Sabine Brazzi, an executive assistant living in London, said she thinks Macron should win a second term.

“I think it’s difficult to put measures in place in five years. And if another president comes in and decides to destroy everything or restart from zero, obviously, nothing moves forward,” Brazzi said.

Laurent Widloecher, a consultant in London, thinks the result isn’t going to be clear cut.

“I think the results are going to surprise us. We saw that Macron was leading the opinion polls in the last two weeks but that the other candidates have been more involved in the race,” he said.

Until just weeks ago, opinion polls pointed to an easy win for the pro-European Union, centrist Macron, who was boosted by his active diplomacy over Ukraine, a strong economic recovery and the weakness of a fragmented opposition.

“I think he’s the only one today who has the courage… to build the France of tomorrow,” Armelle Savidan, a 47-year-old human resources manager, said after casting her ballot for Macron in Paris.

But Macron’s late entry into the campaign, with only one major rally, that even supporters found underwhelming, and his focus on an unpopular plan to increase the retirement age, have dented his ratings, along with steep inflation.

In contrast, the anti-immigration, eurosceptic Le Pen, 53, has been boosted by a months-long focus on cost of living issues and falling support for her far-right rival, Eric Zemmour.

Rising fuel and food prices, fanned by the war in Ukraine, are a pressing issue for many voters.