French presidential election turnout down from previous election
Voter turnout in the first round of the French presidential election was 65 percent by 5 pm local time (15:00 GMT) on Sunday, the interior ministry has said, below the 69.42 percent corresponding rate in the 2017 poll.
Polls opened this morning at 8 am (06:00 GMT) in mainland France, and French media will only be allowed to share projections of results starting from 8 pm (18:00 GMT).
The two top candidates, among twelve in total, will then head on to a runoff round held on April 24.
Far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was expected to come third according to the last opinion poll, earned a decisive win across several French overseas territories, Belgian media outlet La Libre revealed on Sunday afternoon.
In Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Mélenchon comes ahead of incumbent president Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Analysts fear record-breaking abstention across France this year after an unusually apathetic presidential campaign, overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The 2002 record (28.4 percent of French voters boycotting a first-round) risks being beaten, with the 2017 absentee rate of 22.2 percent almost sure to be exceeded.
In the latest polls, 72 percent of French citizens said they were sure they would vote on Sunday, but uncertainty is very high.
A high number of voters, around 26 percent, were still undecided on where to cast their vote on the eve of the election.