PARIS (AP) – Candidates in France’s presidential election have started to cast their votes.
Hard-line right-winger Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who rails against Europe, was the first of the 11 presidential candidates to vote Sunday morning in his constituency in the leafy Paris suburbs.
Far-left candidate Nathalie Arthaud cast her ballot soon after in the Paris suburb of Pantin.
In Paris, voters were lining up early at polling stations.
The vote “is really important, mainly because we really need a change in this country with all the difficulties we are facing and terrorism,” said Paris resident Alain Richaud.
“It’s definitely risky, but I have faith in the result even if an extreme candidate qualifies for the second round,” said Beatrice Schopflin.
The wife of conservative presidential candidate and former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has cast her ballot near their country home – conspicuously not alongside her husband, due to vote miles away in Paris.
Presidential candidates usually vote together with their spouses.
Welsh-born Penelope Fillon, 61, was handed preliminary charges for her role in a fake jobs scandal – dubbed “Penelopegate” – that had threatened to derail her husband’s campaign.
She voted in the department of Sarthe, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) away from the French capital, where she lives with her husband in a 14th-century manor.
President Francois Hollande has cast his vote in the first round of the French election in his political fiefdom of Tulle in Correze, southwestern France.
The incumbent Socialist president made the unusual move last year of pledging to not stand for re-election.
The Socialist candidate is 49-year-old Benoit Hamon, who is not among the presidential front runners.
Hollande was the most unpopular French leader in the country’s modern history.
Centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, one of the front-runners in France’s unpredictable election, has voted in the coastal town of Le Touquet in northern France alongside his wife Brigitte Macron.
The former Socialist economy minister and former banker was relaxed and posed for selfies with voters.
Macron, 39, traveled to Le Touquet this weekend where he has a holiday home for time off the campaign trail.
Other candidates also cast their ballot Sunday morning, including Socialist Benoit Hamon and far-leftist Philippe Poutou.
A total of 11 contenders are vying to advance to the presidential runoff on May 7.