TV satellite vans are massing outside the Louvre in Paris, where what Macron’s team believe will be his victory celebrations are to be staged.
How does France’s system of vote estimates work?
In little over 30 minutes, as the last polling stations close at 8pm, French media will publish their estimates of the final result. They may vary by a percentage point or two, but are generally highly consistent.
Unlike the exit polls in many countries, in which people are asked how they voted as they leave the polling station, these estimates – in use and steadily perfected since 1965 – are based on a vote count.
Pollsters select about 200 early closing polling stations around the country – in rural areas, small towns and urban agglomerations – carefully chosen to be as representative as possible of the country as a whole.
As soon as those stations have closed at 7pm, and as their votes are being counted, a polling official records, for a sizeable sample of the ballots, the number of votes cast for each candidate.
Those numbers are then run through a sophisticated computer program that adjusts them for past results and assorted variables, and produces a national vote estimate. These are not the official result, but they are also not an exit poll.
They are also very accurate, usually to within a percentage point.
Over the course of the evening, as the interior ministry’s official count advances, it will give different numbers, but that is because the earliest final counts come from rural areas that traditionally favour the right.
Gradually, as bigger towns and cities start to declare, the official count and the pollsters’ 8pm vote estimate come into alignment.
Le Monde joins FN boycott
As many polling stations close (some, particularly in big cities, will remain open for another hour), France’s newspaper of record, Le Monde, has announced that it will also boycott the Front National’s election evening event in the Bois de Vincennes.
The Front National has chosen to exclude some French and international media from its election evening event on 7 May … Le Monde forcefully condemns this attitude, which does not allow proper coverage of a major democratic moment and shows a poor interpretation of press freedom.
In solidarity with the media concerned, we have decided we will not be present at this election evening event. This decision will not prevent us from covering the Front National to the same journalistic standards.
Back in Nevers, Oscar Lopez has been speaking to the town’s mayor and some other Macron supporters in the former Socialist stronghold.
Like Macron, Nevers’ mayor, Denis Thuriot, had been part of the Socialist party before running for office as an independent. Elected in 2014, Thuriot ended a 43-year run for the Socialists.
“I had to bring people together from the right and the left,” he said. Now, he hopes Macron can do the same: “It’s a seismic political shift, but it’s necessary. It’s the change that’s best for France.”
The En Marche! candidate had certainly convinced Aline, 42. “It’s been a difficult election,” she said. “French people are tired of politics, with the political system.”
A lifelong Socialist, she voted for the party’s Benoît Hamon in the first round, but believes Macron “embodies the values of the left. He has brought people together from all the parties that didn’t make it through to the second round”.
Jérémie, 30, also voted for Hamon in the first round. But for the run-off, he was voting more against Le Pen than anything else. “She promises nothing but destruction,” he says. “It would be a catastrophe.”
Thuriot was equally critical. “It’s fascism with a different face,” he said of the Front National. “Young people don’t know its history, they didn’t live through the war. So when they see the country’s difficulties, they see it as an alternative. That’s dangerous.”
Macron, he hoped, would bring the country together. “It’s extraordinary,” he said. “I think French people will find new connections – between right and left, between each other. That’s the true republican spirit.”
Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation into the hacking attack on Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! campaign that saw about nine gigabytes of data, including tens of thousands of emails and documents, some of them fake, dumped online on Friday night, sources have told French media.
The leaked documents seem largely unremarkable, but the national elections commission urged French media and citizens not to republish their contents under strict rules barring any form of electioneering the day before the vote and on election day.
Prosecutors have also launched a separate inquiry into whether fake news was being used to influence the voting after Le Pen suggested during the candidates’ live TV debate that former banker Macron may have an offshore account.
A list of online and mainly left-leaning media organisations and websites say they have not been accredited for the Front National’s election evening event in the Bois de Vincennes on the eastern edge of Paris.
Organisations including BuzzFeed, Politico, Rue89, Mediapart and Les Jours all said they have been refused admittance. The leftwing daily newspaper Libération has said it will boycott the event in solidarity.
If turnout projections of about 74% are correct, it would be the lowest in the second round of a French presidential election since 1969.
This is not unexpected in a contest as unique as that between the independent centrist Macron and far-right Le Pen, neither of whom have the formal backing of a mainstream political group, say analysts.
Yves-Marie Cann of pollsters Elabe told L’Express that the 1969 election, when the rate of abstention was a record 31.1%, was similarly exceptional, featuring two centre-right candidates: Georges Pompidou and Alain Poher.
The perils of polling day: in order not to disturb five baby blue tits born between the two rounds in a nest occupying a disused letterbox in the main front door of the mairie (town hall) of the village of La Lande-Chasles (population 115) near Angers, voters are being asked to use an alternative entrance to the polling station, reports BFMTV.
Guardian readers in France and abroad have been answering a request for their views on the election. Carmen Fishwick has collated the responses of some voters who are supporting Macron, but not entirely enthusiastically.
Tom, 22, Paris: I want to see Le Pen as far away as possible from the Élysée. I don’t think Macron will be positive in any way for us except to avoid Le Pen, as his policies are still very unclear. I feel very disappointed as there are no left-leaning candidates. It seems embarrassing to me now to choose between the cause or the consequences, as pro-business policies are definitely a springboard for far-right ideas for next elections.
Catherine, 56, London: It was very difficult to vote for Macron, who I believe will not be able to govern and minimise the big divisions in France. My heart wanted [the Socialist party’s] Benoît Hamon, but I had to vote for Macron in order to stop Le Pen getting too many votes.
I do not think Macron will be good for the country. My only hope is that he will try to make Europe more socially democratic. France has a high level of unemployment, which has to be tackled as a priority. But we have to stop the extreme right gaining power or France and the EU will be doomed.
Peter, 70, Paris: I’m voting Macron, although I do not support him, but could not tolerate the possibility of a Front National candidate winning. I’m not particularly confident that much will change under him, especially as it’s not at all certain he will have a majority support in the parliament.
I voted Mélenchon as he represented most closely those values that I support and was the only left candidate who displayed any genuine passion. As in many countries, there is considerable anxiety for the future, especially around employment, health services provision, youth disenchantment and immigration.
Turnout down at 5pm
The interior ministry has released afternoon turnout figures, showing the abstention rate is noticeably higher than in France’s previous three presidential elections.
Turnout at 5pm this year was 65.3%, the ministry said, down from 71.96% at the previous election in 2012, 75.1% in 2005 and 67.62% in 2002.
Pollsters estimate that the final abstention rate will be about 25% or 26%, in line with forecasts before the vote. Analysts have said a spectacularly low turnout could in principle boost Le Pen’s score.
The “ni-ni” (“neither nor”) movement – voters who say they cannot bring themselves to vote for either candidate – has been quite vocal during the second round, led by supporters of hard left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon and conservative Catholics who backed the centre-right candidate, François Fillon.
In the Burgundy town of Nevers, 150 miles (240km) south of Paris, long a Socialist party bastion and a stronghold of the late president François Mitterrand, Oscar Lopez has found voters turning to Le Pen.
“I’m not in France anymore,” said Ivette Millerioux, 78, after casting her ballot. “I don’t know where I am.” Millerioux, whose father fought in the second world war, said she was frightened after seeing so many terror attacks in France.
“I’ve lived through two wars already,” she says, recalling the Algerian war of independence. “I never thought I’d live through a third. But now, here I am.”
Millerioux once supported the Socialists and voted for Mitterrand in 1981. But not any more. “Marine Le Pen, that’s France,” she said. She was particularly concerned by the number of African immigrants arriving in Nevers: “Multiply that by all the cities in France – it’s unthinkable.”
Another former Socialist Karine Bartier said she had voted for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round. “Now I don’t want to vote for either of them,” said the 45-year-old. Still, when faced with the ballot box, she had chosen Front National.
“There are too many immigrants,” she said. “France is already in such a difficult position – how are we supposed to welcome more people with such misery? At least with Le Pen, we have a chance at change. Things can’t get any worse anyway.”
But for Jean-Philippe Sacquepey, 57, Le Pen represented a much greater destiny for France. “This republic can’t last,” he says. “We must return to the monarchy.” For that, there was only one candidate. “The Le Pen family is descended from Joan of Arc,” Sacquepey insisted. “I voted for Marine – the heart of Joan of Arc still beats.”
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen voted earlier this morning. The far-right politician cast her ballot in her northern stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont.
The independent centrist Macron voted in the coastal resort of Le Touquet, where he has a second home:
A big moment …
Good afternoon and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the runoff round of this tumultuous 2017 French presidential election.
Voting has been under way since 8am in France as the country’s 47 million voters choose their next president, the eighth in the Fifth Republic. The last polls close at 8pm and usually reliable estimates of the result will be known almost immediately.
The outcome matters not just because France is the world’s sixth biggest economy and a key member of the EU, Nato and the UN security council, but also because the two candidates’ world views could not not be more different.
Pollsters have predicted since the first round on 23 April that Emmanuel Macron, a centrist former banker and economy minister, will win comfortably, possibly by more than 20 percentage points, and at 39 become France’s youngest ever leader.
He is economically liberal, socially progressive, globally minded and – on the whole – optimistic. His rival, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National, is a nation-first protectionist who wants to close France’s borders and abandon the euro and EU.
Macron wants to ease labour laws, boost education in deprived areas, extend welfare protection to the self-employed and re-energise the EU. Le Pen aims to cut immigration to 10,000 a year, punish outsourcing by multinationals, and eradicate Islamism.
The campaign has been extraordinary in many ways: for the first time, a sitting first-term president has not sought re-election, and the two mainstream centre right and centre left parties that have run France since the 1950s are not represented in the runoff.
It has been marked by the crashing out of pre-race favourites, a terror attack on the eve of the first round, and – less than 48 hours before today’s vote – a massive online data dump of documents hacked from Macron’s En Marche! movement.
An unhappy and deeply fractured France – its east and its north divided from its from west; its graduates from its school-leavers; its thriving, cosmopolitan cities from its left-behind small towns and villages – will soon know the name of its next leader.