As France heads to the polls, here's everything to expect from election day
Today is the first round of voting for the country’s next president.
French voters have started casting ballots for the incredibly tense first-round poll in the race for the presidency.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Will this decide the new French president?
Not definitively, as it’s only the first round.
Instead, voters will head to one of the 60,000 polling stations to choose one of the 11 candidates.
Why is it seen as a particularly important vote?
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’s 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.
Why is the world watching?
It is seen as a test of populism around the world – something that will be confirmed if the likes of far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen or conservative Francois Fillon get through.
What can we expect?
If we’ve learned anything from recent elections, you can never really know what to expect. This race is closer than most, with opinion polls showing just how tight it is between the top four contenders: Le Pen, Fillon, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Some of the candidates have already cast their votes. Proving how divisive this election has been, Le Pen was met by topless demonstrators from the Femen activist group as she headed into the polling station.
What happens next?
The two leading candidates will make it through to the next round – it’s like The X Factor, but with the fate of the country at stake.
The French will head to the polls again on May 7, a vote which will decide who will be the country’s next president.