MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The first round of the election took place on April 23, with Macron gaining 24.01 percent of votes, and Le Pen coming second with 21.3 percent.
The 2017 election campaign became one of the most surprising, marking the first time in the history of the Republic when incumbent President Francois Hollande refused to run for the second term, and alternative candidates outrunning the Socialists and the Republicans in the first round.
The president of France is elected for a term of five years, with the citizens that are 18 and older being eligible to vote. This year, at the 11th presidential election in the history of the Fifth Republic, about 47 million people are eligible to vote.
The polling station will open at 8 a.m. local time (06:00 GMT) and will close at 7 p.m., with the big cities voting until 8 p.m. The first official results will be provided by the Interior Ministry at 8 p.m., and if the dynamics is clear, the name of the next president of France will be known in the first hour after the polling stations close.
Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, the founder and leader of the "En Marche!" movement and the former economy minister, positions himself as an alternative candidate, but still is considered as a man from the system.
According to his election program, Macron seeks to initiate a great investment plan, envisaging 50 billion euros of public investment over five years. The money would be allocated for a number of economic goals, like training and acquiring skills necessary to find jobs, or the development and support of agriculture producers. The funding will also be used for reaching environmental and energy targets, particularly in the development of renewable energy sources.
Macron plans to reduce the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent from the current 10 percent by 2020, increase military spending up to 2 percent from the current 1.79 percent, and calls for a more active fight against terrorism. He has also said that he wants to hire an additional 10,000 police officers and give them more authority.
Macron is a firm supporter of European integration and considers defending the interests of the European Union and its citizens his priority, especially after Brexit. However, ahead of the second round he stated that the European Union has to be reformed or will face perspectives of Frexit, as the French were full of "anger" at the union.
As for Russia, Macron considers it a "working partner" on "regional issues," in particular on the Ukrainian and Syrian crises. Macron also supports the idea of maintaining the sanctions regime against Russia, linking it with the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
MARINE LE PEN
One of the key points of Le Pen’s election program is the referendum on Frexit. The right-wing candidate has repeatedly spoken of the need to return the "four sovereignties" – territorial, economic, monetary and legal.
The right-wing candidate calls for restoring the national border and leaving the Schengen zone, as well as returning passport checks to the French borders of other EU states and re-introducing the national currency within the first two years after the election.
Le Pen seeks to reduce the number of immigrants in the country, in particular by curbing asylum for requests made abroad in French consulates and decreasing migration to a net 10,000 people per year. She also suggests removing birthright citizenship and to make it impossible for undocumented immigrants to legalize their stay in the country.
As for security policy, Le Pen calls for establishing "rule of order everywhere and for everyone," promising to hire additional 15,000 police officers.
The right-wing candidate also believes that France should not participate in free trade agreements like the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between Europe and North America, or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.
Le Pen believes that France needs to reach balance in relations with the United States and Russia, and normalize the relations with Moscow in order for Europe to be able to "look into the bright future."
According to the latest Ifop opinion poll, Macron in expected to win the run-off with 63 percent of the votes, while Le Pen is set to receive support of 37 percent of the voters.
On Wednesday, following the last round of debates, opinion polls showed that 63 percent of viewers believed Macron was more convincing than Le Pen, and only 34 percent thought that Le Pen was more successful than her opponent.
However, with the debates being considered unpopular, the turnout is expected to be lower than in the first round. This could work in favor of Le Pen, as her supporters tend to be more active than those of Macron.
According to the Interior Ministry, "unprecedented" security measures will be taken during the run-off, with some 50,000 policemen and 7,000 army personnel being deployed to ensure citizens' safety.
Several protest actions are expected to be held by the citizens unsatisfied with the election results, and such protests usually result in clashes with the police.
Another issue is the security of the events planned to be held by the candidates after the results are announced. Macron is bringing together his supporters at the square in front of Louvre in the center of Paris, and Le Pen plans to hold the meeting in the former hunting pavilion of last French emperor Napoleon III in the Bois de Vincennes (Vincennes Forest) in the south-east of the city.