France began voting in a presidential runoff election on Sunday, with incumbent Emmanuel Macron facing his rival Marine Le Pen.
Turnout for Sunday's runoff was 26.41% at midday, nearly two points lower than in 2017 when it stood at 28.23%.
The figure also marks a decline compared to the second round of voting in 2012 (30.66%) and 2007 (34.11%).
The result of voting in France, a nuclear-armed nation with one of the world’s biggest economies, could affect the entire European continent, but also impact the conflict in Ukraine, as France has played a key role in diplomatic efforts and support for sanctions against Russia.
Much will depend Sunday on how many people out of the 48.8 million eligible voters turn out at the polling stations, which will close at 7 pm CET in most of the country, while some will remain open until 8 pm in major urban areas.
First results on Sunday evening
France still uses paper ballots tucked in paper envelopes to cast votes, with no absentee voting, and no early voting either. Mail-in voting was banned in 1975 amid fears of potential fraud.
About 7% of people voted by proxy in the last presidential election five years ago. French people living abroad vote in embassies or consulates.
Voters make their choices in a booth, with the curtains closed, then place their ballot in an envelope that is then put into a transparent ballot box. They must show a photo identification and sign a document, next to their name, to complete the process.
Machine voting has been allowed on an experimental basis, but the purchase of new machines has been frozen since 2008 due to security concerns. Only about 60 towns still use them, out of 35,000 municipalities in France.
The first preliminary results can be expected at 8 pm, as the electoral authorities publish a projection based on select polling stations chosen as representative of France.