UPDATE: the results are in:” Macron and Le Pen are through to the election run-off”:http://www.euronews.com/2017/04/23/french-presidential-election-1st-round-projections-macron-and-le-pen-go-to-the
Turnout figures for the first round of the French presidential election stood at 69.42% at 5pm local time.
The Interior Ministry said the numbers were down slightly from the last election.
The latest turnout figure compared to 70.59% at the same time during the last election in 2012, 73.87% in 2007 and 58.45% in 2002.
Earlier outgoing President François Hollande cast his vote in what has become one of the most unpredictable French elections in decades.
The unpopular President Hollande, who is not seeking a second term, called on the French “to show that democracy is stronger than anything else”.
Asked about the terrorist threat, he assured that “all measures have been taken” to ensure the French can safely vote.
First round of French presidential election. #Presidentielle2017— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) April 23, 2017
jeffpachoud</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/JSEvrard">JSEvrard & Frederic Florin pic.twitter.com/py3QsQ4RPQ
Polls are now open in France for the first round of voting in the country's closely-fought presidential election— Emma Clark (@emmaclarkuk) April 23, 2017
Eleven candidates are vying for the presidency in this first round of voting.
The top two will face a run-off vote in two weeks time.
Some 47 million people are eligible to take part in the ballot.
The vote comes amid an unprecedented context of security and terrorist concerns in France.
The threat of terrorism was pushed to the top of the agenda in the final hours of the campaigning after a policeman was shot and killed on the Champs-Elysee.
Officials promised tight security during the voting, with more than 50,000 police and other security personnel on duty.
The country has already been under a state of emergency for many months, with soldiers patrolling key public places.
The polls opened at 8am and will remain open until 7pm and 8pm in major cities.