France presidential elections: Louvre evacuated as suspicious package found ahead of Emmanuel Macron speech

Security alert in Paris as French voters cast their ballots

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The Independent Online

Louvre grounds, where French presidential candidate and favourite Emmanuel Macron was planning to celebrate his possible victory on Sunday, was evacuated for security checks after a suspicious bag was found, police and a campaign official said.

"Following the detection of a suspicious bag, the 300 journalists (who were processing their accreditation), were asked to leave the area for security reasons and taken to a different area," said an official from Mr Macron's campaign.

The precautionary measure was taken to carry out security checks, according to the police.

The courtyard in front of the landmark museum was where Mr Macron planned to celebrate his possible victory, his team confirmed on Thursday.

The alert comes as voters across the country cast their ballots in the final round of the presidential election.

France is still under a state of emergency brought in after the Paris attacks of November 2015.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron is up against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, with the results expected to be announced later this evening.

The divisive election to choose the next president has turned the country’s politics upside down, with neither of the two mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties that have governed France since the second world war making it to the runoff.

The latest polls suggest the centrist candidate Mr Macron will be the winner, with more than 60 per cent of the votes. This would make him the youngest president of the Fifth Republic at the age of 39.

Forecasts proved to be accurate for the presidential election's first round and markets have risen in response to Macron's widening lead over his rival after a bitter debate on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Ms Le Pen pickep up up a record 7.6 million votes in the first round of the election. This is the strongest ever result for a FN candidate and 2.8 million more than her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, got when he stood in the first round of the presidential election in 2002. 

Le Pen Senior was crushed by his opponent, Jacques Chirac, who received 82 per cent of the final vote that year. This is 20 per cent more compared to the predicted score for Macron, showing that such strong opposition to the FN is fading among the electorate.

Ms Le Pen's niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, on Thursday told L'Opinion daily that a 40 per cent score would already be "a huge victory" for the National Front.

Pollsters will publish initial estimates at 8 pm (1800 GMT), once all polling stations are closed.

 

Additional reporting by agencies

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