Turnout among voters in France’s most significant presidential election in decades was projected to be historically low Sunday — a trend that experts said favored far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
Roughly two hours before the last polls were to close in Paris, the firm Ipsos Sopra-Steria estimated abstention levels of 26%, the highest percentage in the second round of a French presidential election since 1969.
The projection was based on figures from France’s interior ministry showing turnout of 65.3% at 5 p.m. Paris time, compared to 71.96% at the same time of the second round of 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Polling prior to Sunday’s election showed that many supporters of candidates who lost in the first round planned to abstain from voting in the second.
Voters face a stark choice. Le Pen has proposed drastic limits on immigration and has pledged to hold a referundum on whether France should leave the European Union. Members of her inner circle are alleged to have Nazi ties. She has sought to distance her party, the National Front, from its discriminatory past.
Her opponent is Emmanuel Macron, an independent candidate who has never held elected office. The centrist favors free trade and a stronger European Union.
Experts say that low turnout favors Le Pen, whose base is more devoted to her than Macron’s.