Paris, France. French voters today are choosing their next president after an unpredictable campaign that has divided the country.This second round contest pits centrist Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, against the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen.

French voter turnout was at 28.2% by 10:00 GMT, lower than that of previous presidential elections.The vote is being closely watched across Europe, as the results could affect the future of the EU, given Le Pen wishes a “Frexit” exit for her country.

The polling stations will remain open in some big cities until 18:00 GMT, with early estimates of the result due to be reported immediately after they close. With security very tight in the wake of pre-election violence, over 50,000 police officers have been deployed to maintain security.

Both candidates have been campaigning in the north of France on Sunday, with Mr Macron voting near his home in the sea-side resort of Le Touquet, and Ms Le Pen in the working-class town of Henin-Beaumont, a National Front stronghold.

This election marks a new phase in French politics with for the first time neither of the main parties the socialists and the republicans,having a candidate in the run-off. The two candidates have offered voters starkly different visions of France.

Mr Macron, a liberal centrist, is pro-business and a strong supporter of the European Union (EU), while Ms Le Pen campaigned on a France-first, anti-immigration program. Marine wants France to abandon the euro in the domestic economy, and hold a referendum on France’s EU membership, seeking a “Frexit” exit with support from many.

Polls suggest Mr Macron could win the vote, but analysts have said late breaking charges of drug addiction, loans from Israeli banks and a history of gay sex, discovered in email leaks,could damage his chances.

France is set to elect either its first female leader, or its youngest-ever president who married his teacher, 24 years his senior, apparently in a bid to cover his homosexuality from the French electorate.

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