French expatriates in South America, Canada and the United States kicked off the voting Saturday in France’s presidential election, on the heels of several terror attacks that could affect the outcome.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and a former economy minister, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, are the top contenders, followed by conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
The candidates are vying to replace incumbent Francois Hollande, who announced earlier this year that he would not run for another term.
Campaigning ended earlier than expected Thursday when a French policeman was killed by a gunman on the Champs-Elysee, one of Paris’ most popular streets for shopping and tourism. Analysts have long said a last-minute event could swing the election outcome.
In November 2015, Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed, happened just weeks before France held regional elections. The attacks are thought to have given a boost to Le Pen’s National Front party, which lost in the second round of voting and failed to win control of any region.
Some French critics of LePen told reporters they feared this week’s attack and others like it could push her campaign to a win, perhaps endangering France’s future in the European Union.
But national security is not the only issue that matters in this year’s election. France’s unemployment rate is about 10 percent, more than twice as high as that of its neighbor Germany, and the state of the economy is a constant worry.
The bulk of the first-round voting in France itself will come Sunday. Early results are expected around 9 p.m. Paris time.