French elections: Will it be Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen?

(CNN)French voters headed to the polls Sunday for the final act in one of the most tumultuous presidential election campaigns in the country’s history.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (2 a.m. ET), and will close between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET). Polling companies release usually reliable projections of the final result almost immediately afterward.
Whoever becomes president, Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist, or Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, will inherit a country bitterly divided.
    France is suffering from high unemployment, a stagnant economy and security worries. The government has struggled to cope with immigration and integration.
    In the first round two weeks ago, voters rejected representatives of all the traditional mainstream political parties in France. Macron and Le Pen topped an 11-strong field, taking 24% and 21% of the vote respectively.
    Since then, Le Pen has been battling to extend her appeal beyond her traditional base of supporters, while Macron has been attempting to convince voters that he is not part of the political elite they rejected in the first round.
    Macron, 39, has campaigned on a pro-Europe, pro-integration platform. Le Pen, 48, has suggested she would aim to take France out of the European Union, withdraw it from NATO and forge closer ties with Russia.
    Both traded insults in a bad-tempered head-to-head debate on French television on Wednesday. He called her a liar who sowed division and hatred, while she accused him of being soft on terrorism and said he would preside over a nation enfeebled by its powerful neighbor, Germany.
    Less than 24 hours after the debate, the Paris prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation after Macron filed a complaint against Le Pen following her claim during the debate that he may have an offshore account in the Bahamas.

      Le Pen supporters explain why she has their vote

    Macron, a former investment banker, who also served as economy minister under President Francois Hollande, has struggled to connect with voters in the rural and de-industrialized areas of the country.
    He was heavily criticized for his celebrations after the first round of voting and has been labeled as arrogant by Le Pen.
    In the final polls published before campaigning ended on Friday, Macron appeared to have retained a healthy lead. But the unknown quantity is turnout: A campaign launched last week urged voters to stay at home, leave their ballot envelope empty or submit a blank piece of paper instead of a ballot slip.
    Hours before the official close of campaigning Friday, Macron’s campaign announced he had been the target of a “massive and coordinated” hacking operation.
    Around 14.5 gigabytes of emails, personal and business documents were posted to the text-sharing site Pastebin.
    Macron’s party said the hackers had mixed fake documents with authentic ones “to create confusion and misinformation.”
    Official government figures show more people decided to abstain from voting in the April 23 first round of the election than voted for any single candidate — including Macron and National Front’s Le Pen.
    It is thought that Macron would be hit hardest by a high abstention rate.
    The big challenge for Le Pen is to broaden her appeal. At the end of last month, she announced that she had temporarily stepped down from her position as leader of the National Front. Some saw that as an attempt to distance herself from the party, regarded as toxic by many in France.
    But her position in the polls has barely moved since the first round. If Le Pen is elected, it would be one of the biggest upsets in postwar French political history.

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