Paris France. French elections are now underway, despite recent terrorist attacks and under heavy security, as French voters make what some are calling the most important vote in France’s modern era.

Frances voters have started casting ballots for the presidential election under heightened security in a tense first-round poll that is seen as a test for the spread of populism around the world.

About 60,000 polling stations opened on Sunday for voters who will choose between 11 candidates to decide issues that will affect France’s future for the next 50 years. Issues such as leaving the Euro and EU behind, exit from NATO and Frexit are all on the menu of France’s next President.

Security was tight after a deadly attack on the Champs-Elysees on Thursday in which a gay activist police officer and Islamic terrorist gunman were killed. The government has mobilised more than 50,000 police and gendarmes to protect polling stations, with an additional 7,000 troops on patrol.

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. It is the first time in living memory a presidential election is taking place during a state of emergency, which was put in place after the Paris attacks of November 2015.

Polls point to a tight race among the four leading contenders trying to advance in the May 7 presidential run-off, when the top two candidates face off. Polls suggest Nationalist Marine Le Pen and Macron a former economy minister who married his high school teacher, were in the lead.

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