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Ballot Boxes Open in French Presidential Elections - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Paris – The French presidential elections got underway on Sunday with voters heading to 67,000 ballot boxes distributed throughout the country in wake of the dark shadow of the terrorist attack that hit Paris on Thursday night.

Given the serious threats, the French president and prime minister were keen to assure the 47 million voters of the safety of the electoral process with the Ministry of Interior mobilizing no less than 50,000 personnel and Ministry of Defense providing 7,000 to maintain security.

A few hours after the tragedy that struck Paris, President Francois Hollande appeared on television to ensure the state’s “absolute keenness” to provide security and safety during the elections.

For his part, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve stated that nothing should prevent holding the democratic process, affirming that it is up to the French people not to get carried away with fear and intimidation because this ensures the victory of the “enemies of the republic”.

Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon stressed that it would be “a huge mistake if French people succumbed to fear”, adding that they should not present a “gift” to the terrorists by abandoning their right to participate in the democratic practice.

However this stance – similar to that of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron – was not endorsed by the other two candidates: National Front candidate Marine Le Pen and the republican Francois Fillon.

Le Pen directed the harshest criticism to the right-wing and left-wing governments of the past ten years, saying they have failed in protecting the French people. She portrayed herself as the “sole guarantor” of security in the face of terrorism.

Which two candidates will emerge victorious in the first round of the elections? It is hard to guess.

The two winning candidates in Sunday’s elections will head to a runoff vote scheduled for May 7.