French presidential candidates vote

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The two candidates in France's presidential runoff election have cast their ballots and basked in adoring crowds outside their polling stations.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen went first, cheerily greeting election workers in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, in France's struggling former industrial heartland.

She emerged from the ballot booth beaming to drop it in a transparent box. Outside, she took selfies with supporters.

Then came incumbent Emmanuel Macron, who shook dozens of hands, and was handed a small child to hold up, on his journey from his family home in the resort town of Le Touquet on the English Channel to his voting station.

Inside, he greeted yet more people, posed for photographs with his wife Brigitte, and cast his ballot with a wink for the cameras. The voting booths were shielded by curtains in the red-white-and-blue of the French flag.

About 48.8 million voters are eligible to take part in the runoff, which is being watched around Europe. Early results are expected Sunday night.

Turnout in France's presidential runoff on Sunday is slightly higher than it was at the same point in the first-round vote two weeks ago, with 26.1 per cent at midday

Many of those expected to choose the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, are doing so to keep out Marine Le Pen and ideas seen as too extreme and anti-democratic, such as her plan to ban the Muslim headscarf in public, or her ties to Russia.

The centrist Macron is asking voters to trust him for a second five-year term despite a presidency troubled by protests, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

A Macron victory in this vote would make him the first French president in 20 years to win a second term.

The result of voting in France, a nuclear-armed nation with one of the world's biggest economies, could also impact the conflict in Ukraine, as France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and support for sanctions against Russia.

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