France elections: Voters go to the polls in first round of presidential race

Michelle Clifford, Senior News Correspondent, in Paris

People have been casting their votes for a new president in France in what is one of the closest and most unpredictable first-round contests in decades and one which will be a test of voters' anger with the political establishment.

Amid tight security people have been going to polling stations after a campaign which pitted the far-right against the far-left with the traditional centre parties of France struggling to make ground.

Some 50,000 police officers and 7,000 soldiers have been deployed across France to protect voters.

At Paris' largest polling station in the 15th arrondissement, locals were queuing before the doors even opened.

Turnout is usually high in French elections, but some voters have said they will abstain because they have lost faith in mainstream politicians.

Those who spoke to Sky News said the economy, money and jobs were the priorities in deciding on a candidate but acknowledged that security was a worry after the attack in the French capital this week in which a police officer was killed.

The attack halted last-day campaigning, with candidates cancelling major rallies and events, but some spoke out on security and terrorism, leading to criticism they were exploiting tragic events for political purposes.

Four of the 11 candidates in the race are currently in a position to bag one of the two first-round places which would take them into a final run-off.

With a third of voters still undecided in the final days of campaigning, any one of them could make it through.

Close to 47 million people are eligible to vote in the election, with 1.3 million of them living abroad .

French overseas territories and French residents living in the US and Canada began voting on Saturday.

The result will be as keenly watched around the world as in France to see whether the populist tide which delivered Brexit to the UK and Donald Trump to America is still at play.

The two candidates who get the most votes in the first round will advance to the second round in two weeks when a new president will be chosen.

Some 60,000 polling stations are open across the country, with exit polls expected soon after the final ones close at 8pm (7pm UK time).

But the results may take longer to emerge than usual because the margin between the leading candidates is so tight.

:: Watch Sky News' French presidential elections special programme with Adam Boulton from 7pm tonight.

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