French nationals cast their ballot in Quebec a day before presidential showdown

French nationals cast their ballot in Quebec a day before presidential showdown

French expats wait in line to vote in the second round of voting in the 2017 French Presidential election in Montreal, Saturday, May 6, 2017. France goes to the polls on Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — Thousands of French nationals who live in Quebec voted Saturday in their country’s presidential runoff between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

Nadia Camus, an election volunteer who was helping at the Montreal college where people cast their ballot, said the process was smoother than in the first round two weeks ago when long lineups prompted some people to walk away without voting.

“The improvement is mainly down to having priority lineups,” Camus said. “The lineup for pregnant women and people with disabilities is much shorter than the last time.”

The French consul general in Montreal said more than 57,000 people registered to vote in Quebec, with an overwhelming majority of them in Montreal.

While the election in France takes place Sunday, those not in the country who are eligible to cast a ballot voted Saturday.

Voting also took place elsewhere in Canada, including the French Embassy in Ottawa.

The election pits Macron and his business-friendly, pro-European vision against Le Pen and her protectionist, closed-borders view that resonates with workers left behind by globalization.

One Montreal voter, Victor Silvestrin-Racine, said Saturday it was important for people to exercise their democratic right in order to minimize Le Pen’s chances of victory.

“The more that people abstain, the better the chances an extremist government gets in, so people must vote,” said Silvestrin-Racine, 26, who voted for Benoit Hamon in the first round.

Another voter, who identified herself only as Catherine, said she was encouraged by the turnout.

“In Montreal, I don’t think the abstention rate will be too high,” said the 55-year-old financial analyst, who was planning to vote for Macron.

She said she twice tried to vote in the first round, but was unable to because of the long lineups.

“Voting is very important for me, so I would have liked to have been able to do so the first time round,” she said, adding she would have cast a ballot for Francois Fillon.

This time, she said she was supporting Macron — and not just because she wanted to help thwart Le Pen.

“I really don’t want the extreme right to get in but at the same time I believe there might be elements in Macron’s program that are positive and could help France move forward,” she said.

In the first round on April 23, Macron won 24 per cent support and Le Pen 21 per cent.

A day earlier, nearly 23,000 French nationals voted in Montreal.

Emilie Bergeron, The Canadian Press

***

PARIS — The Latest on France’s presidential runoff on Sunday between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

French natives are turning out in droves in the Canadian province of Quebec to cast a ballot in France’s presidential runoff.

The French consul general in Montreal said more than 57,000 people registered to vote in the province, an overwhelming majority of them in Montreal. In the first round of voting two weeks ago, long lines formed in Montreal as people waited to cast their vote.

While the presidential election in France takes place Sunday, those not in the country must vote Saturday.

The presidential runoff pits centrist Emmanuel Macron and his pro-European vision against far-right Marine Le Pen and her protectionist views, which resonate with jobless workers.

Voting also took place Saturday elsewhere in Canada, including the French Embassy in Ottawa. Scarves and jackets were the dress code at voting stations on the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon off the chilly northeastern coast of Canada.

___

7:15 p.m.

From depressed northern France to the streets of Paris, many voters are looking forward to the end of a presidential campaign marred by hostility, hacking and low-brow political discourse.

Election officials are setting up voting booths around the country for Sunday’s runoff between independent newcomer Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

In Henin-Beaumont in northern France, where Le Pen will cast her ballot, 28-year-old Thomas Delannoy said Saturday the campaign “looks like reality TV.” The construction painter called the electoral process “laughable,” saying he can’t identify with either candidate’s platform.

Macron will vote in the seaside town of Le Touquet, where his wife Brigitte went for a walk with her daughter and grandchildren Saturday.

Few voters seemed aware of the massive hacking attack on Macron’s team announced minutes before a blackout on campaigning began Friday at midnight.

___

4:50 p.m.

The British-based betting firm Ladbrokes says far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is attracting 90 per cent of the bets on the eve of the French presidential election, as people gamble that France is in line for an upset.

The betting firm said Saturday despite the polls favouring her centrist rival, Emmanuel Macron, gamblers are putting money on the idea that France may be in line for a political shock similar to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union or Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Le Pen’s odds are 6-1. Macron is at 1-10 odds.

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes says with “so many political upsets in recent times, we are not surprised to see punters ignoring the polls. Le Pen is attracting the weight of money.”

___

3:50 p.m.

France’s election campaign commission says “a significant amount of data” has been leaked on social networks following a hacking attack on centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign some 36 hours before voting starts in Sunday’s runoff.

The commission says Saturday the data leaked apparently came from Macron’s “information systems and mail accounts from some of his campaign managers.” The watchdog says the leaked data has been “fraudulently” obtained and that fake news has probably been mingled in with it.

It urged French media and citizens “not to relay” the contents of the leaked documents “in order not to alter the sincerity of the vote.”

French electoral laws impose a blackout Saturday and most of Sunday on any campaigning and media coverage seen as swaying the election.

Macron is seen as the favourite going into Sunday’s runoff against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

___

11 a.m.

Voting in the French presidential runoff has begun in France’s overseas territories amid a nationwide blackout on campaigning and media coverage that could sway voters’ views. It moves to the mainland on Sunday.

The first French territory involved in the early voting was Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago located near the Canadian island of Newfoundland, where polling stations opened Saturday morning.

Early voting in other far-flung French overseas territories and French embassies abroad was expected later in the day.

In the presidential runoff, voters are choosing between centrist Emmanuel Macron’s business-friendly, pro-European vision and far-right Marine Le Pen’s protectionist, closed-borders view that resonates with workers left behind by globalization.

___

10 a.m.

France’s election campaign watchdog is investigating a hacking attack and document leak targeting presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron that his political movement calls a last-ditch bid to disrupt Sunday’s tense runoff vote.

Fears of hacking and campaign interference have simmered throughout France’s high-stakes, closely watched campaign — and boiled over Friday night as Macron’s team said it had been the victim of a “massive and co-ordinated” hack.

His political movement said the unidentified hackers accessed staffers’ personal and professional emails and leaked campaign finance material and contracts — as well as fake decoy documents — online.

The perpetrators remain unknown. It’s unclear whether the document dump would dent Macron’s large poll lead over far-right rival Marine Le Pen going into the vote.

___

6 a.m.

The French presidential campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and candidates insulting each other on national television — a reflection of the widespread public disaffection with politics.

Marine Le Pen, 48, has brought her far-right National Front party, once a pariah for its racism and anti-Semitism, closer than ever to the French presidency, seizing on working-class voters’ growing frustration with globalization and immigration. Even if she loses in Sunday’s runoff, she is likely to be a powerful opposition figure in France’s parliamentary election in June.

On Sunday she faces 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron, who also helped upend France’s traditional political structure with his wild-card campaign.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Le Pen said, win or lose, “we changed everything.”

Many voters, however, don’t like either Le Pen or Macron. They fear her party’s racist past while worrying that his platform would demolish worker job protections.

___

6 a.m.

The hacking attack and leak of both fake and real documents from Emmanuel Macron’s campaign began late Friday, just before France’s required campaign news blackout descended at midnight.

Someone on 4chan — a site known for, among other things, cruel hoaxes and political extremism — posted links to a large set of data which the poster claimed had come from Macron’s campaign. Macron’s campaign swiftly confirmed it had been hacked some weeks ago, and that at least some of the documents were genuine.

Macron’s team is slamming the hack as an effort to “seed doubt and disinformation” and destabilize the French presidential vote on Sunday where he faces Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party.

A top National Front official, Florian Philippot, asked in a tweet, “will the #Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism deliberately buried?”

The French election commission is meeting Saturday on the hack and the leak.

A voting watchdog urged the French Interior Ministry late Friday to look into claims by the Le Pen campaign that some of her ballot papers were being tampered with to benefit Macron.

The Associated Press

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