France goes to the polls on Sunday in the first round of elections for a new president -- or perhaps the same one.
President Emmanuel Macron is the current favorite, with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in second place, and France Unbowed’s Jean-Luc Melenchon in third.
A total of 12 candidates are competing for the presidency in this first round. According to polling by French news outlet Le Figaro, Macron is polling at 27.1%, Le Pen at 21.8%, with Melenchon holding a healthy 15.7%. A run-off round with the two victors from Sunday's round will be held on April 24.
The remaining nine candidates comprise a somewhat lackluster field that trails behind the leaders, with the exception of controversial candidate Eric Zemmour who has ignited a part of the populace with his inflammatory rhetoric and hard-line stance on immigration.
The Republicans' Valerie Pecresse holds 9.3% in the polls, Greens candidate Yannick Jadot has remained strong in his corner but only holds 5.2% of the vote. Current Mayor of Paris and Socialist Party leader Anne Hidalgo may have a loyal following but is fourth from the bottom with 2% in the polls.
Some strong-minded Parisians, like Fabrice, are firm in their stance when it comes to the candidates. After five years of strife -- including Yellow Vest protests for weeks as well as transit strikes and protests over the wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine, a blistering pandemic, and Brexit, he sees the need not only for change but for a turn inward.
“I will vote for Marine Le Pen, because I think it’s high time to get rid of Macron. It is essential (to vote). We are going to vote for somebody who is going to decide for us for the next five years. There are many things at stake.”
“The biggest issue we are going to face is to decide if we want to be independent or if we want to be linked to the European Union or to the United States,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to depend on the US or the EU. I want France to decide with its own will.”
He is just one of many Parisians kicking back in the Luxembourg Gardens on a spring weekend, a meeting place for families and friends to enjoy the sun and discuss the issues of the day -- which just happens to be right behind the Senate.
Young voters like Suzanne are excited to be casting their vote but have also had an array of choices that left them slightly indecisive.
“I’m 21 and it’s my first election so it’s exciting obviously, it’s the first big choice politically. It was quite complicated for me to decide actually because I was leaning toward Melenchon - but then the war started, which complicated things,” Suzanne told Anadolu Agency.
She added that she is not quite ok with Melenchon’s way of thinking about the current conflict in Ukraine and his statements on Russia. “So I’m still quite conflicted but I will probably vote for him.”
Despite an array of choices, many of those in the nation’s capital remain very undecided. Friends Laur and Ghislaine exemplified the apathy present in many voters’ minds.
“It could be worse,” Laur told Anadolu Agency, “a lot worse,” as she deflected her friend’s comments about the lack of vibrant candidates with something to say, and even more, records of accomplishments.
“Hidalgo has been completely useless, and who else is there?”
Two of the most serious problems, climate challenge and rising inflation causing now-doubling gas prices, are the main issues causing indecision for voters like Laur.
“I’m not sure who I’ll vote for.”