Voters in France prepared to go to the polls Sunday, ending what observers describe as the country’s most contentious and divisive presidential campaign since the founding of the Fifth Republic.
Sunday also could mark the start of a new path for France and its relationship with the rest of Europe, regardless of who wins.
Surveys at the official end of campaigning had centrist Emmanuel Macron in a strong lead, with 62 percent support, and nationalist anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen at 38 percent.
Macron’s campaign late Friday said it had been “the victim of a massive and coordinated (computer) hack” that resulted in the leak of campaign emails – a mixture of both real and fake documents – on social media.
For the first time in recent history, French voters will cast ballots in a presidential election with no candidates from traditional establishment parties.
Their choices are between Macron – a centrist from the left who is pro-business and pro-Europe – and Le Pen – who wants France out of the European Union and an end to most immigration, especially from Muslim countries.
In the final week of campaigning, Le Pen made one last push to convince voters she is the one who can best deal with the challenges of a changing Europe.
“I am best placed to talk to this new world that’s emerging, to talk to the Russia of Putin, to the United States of Trump, to talk to the Britain of May,” Le Pen said.