While French pollsters and poli-pundits are prohibited from providing "hot-takes" or preliminary exit-polls ahead of the closing of polls at 8pm local time, the Belgian press is not similarly constrained, and according to L'Echo, citing early exit polls, Macron would win the vote with between 63% and 64% of the vote, while empty ballots would represents about 10%.
The Belgian newspaper adds that, as noted earlier, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior, the participation rate in metropolitan France at 5pm amounted to 65.30%, the lowest participation rate in decades. It also adds that the abstention rate in today's vote is expected to reach 25% to 27% on the day.
Still, as the Telegraph cautions, while it was thought that Mr Macron could build a larger voting base than Ms Le Pen - as he was expected to mop up votes in the second round from those who support mainstream Right and Left candidates in the first - it appeared last night that a large number of supporters for the conservative, Francois Fillon, and the far-Left Jean-Luc Melenchon stayed home on election day. And a vast number chose to spoil their ballots or abstain at the polls - as many as 29% of voters, according to one estimate.
Furthermore, take such early forecasts with a grain of salt. As Bloomberg's European analyst Maxime Sbaihi writes, "French authorities' warning: no "reliable" estimate can be made before 7.45pm. Don't trust what you see before that."
He also provides the following breakdown of how to read the final score:
How to interpret #Macron's score tonight?
- bad < 55% < weak < 60% < fair enough < 63% < landslide < 65% < plebiscite
How to interpret #LePen's score tonight?
- 45% > success > 40% > passable > 37% > meager > 35% > FN mutiny
* * *
Some other highlights: a timelapse clip showing a Paris polling station:
The Telegraph also reports that Libération newspaper says it is boycotting the electoral events of Marine Le Pen this evening - whether she wins or loses - in solidarity with other French and foreign media outlets who have been refused access to them.
The left-wing daily says it will not carry any coverage of the events, during which Ms Le Pen is due to make a speech after the election results are announced, because the Front National has refused access to the gathering in a park in the east of Paris tonight to about a dozen media organisations. "These anti-democratic measures, which are also contrary to the right to keep the public informed, must stop, as must the intimidation of journalists in (Le Pen) political rallies," wrote senior Libération editor Johan Hufnagel.