Here is a look at all the hopefuls — from Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo to ruralist Jean Lassalle — and the frontrunners Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

Polls opened across France for the first round of the country’s presidential election, where up to 48 million eligible voters will be choosing between 12 candidates.
Polls opened across France for the first round of the country’s presidential election, where up to 48 million eligible voters will be choosing between 12 candidates. (AFP)

France is voting in the first round of a presidential election with Emmanuel Macron seeking a new term in the face of a challenge from the far right.

Twelve candidates are in the race, which will see the top two in the first round face a run-off on April 24.

From frontrunner Macron to an eccentric former shepherd from the Pyrenees mountains, these are the contenders:

FAR RIGHT

Marine Le Pen, 53

The veteran far-right leader is making her third attempt for the presidency after reaching the second round in 2017, with her political future widely seen as on the line in this year's polls.

Rather than holding flashy rallies, the 53-year-old has opted for low-key grassroots campaigning while seeking to cast herself as more mainstream, moderate and competent than her far-right rivals — and even her former self.

Le Pen promises to cut taxes on energy and essential goods and wants to maintain the minimum retirement age at 62 and raise the minimum pension.
Le Pen promises to cut taxes on energy and essential goods and wants to maintain the minimum retirement age at 62 and raise the minimum pension. (AA)

Eric Zemmour, 63

The ex-journalist, television pundit and best-selling author has a major national following thanks to his anti-Muslim and anti-immigration views, which has enabled him to draw support away from Le Pen and the mainstream right.

As a political newcomer, Zemmour enjoyed a surge in the polls last October, but gaffes and his uncompromising style have seen him slip significantly behind Le Pen in the polls.

Zemmour promises to cut taxes on businesses, low-income workers, retired people with small pensions and to give families a bonus for children born in rural areas. He wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030.
Zemmour promises to cut taxes on businesses, low-income workers, retired people with small pensions and to give families a bonus for children born in rural areas. He wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030. (AFP)

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, 61

The eurosceptic head of the "Rise Up France" party is a pugnacious mayor of a Paris suburb who bubbles up in French public life every five years at presidential election time.

He has promised to crack down on migration and give "a kick in the butt to the lazy, slackers and free riders", but has been largely drowned out by Le Pen and Zemmour.

Dupont-Aignan says his party is the true heir of General Charles de Gaulle and his push for French sovereignty.
Dupont-Aignan says his party is the true heir of General Charles de Gaulle and his push for French sovereignty. (AFP)

RIGHT

Valerie Pecresse, 54

The head of the Greater Paris region surprised many by winning the primary for the conservative Republicans party, becoming its first female candidate in a presidential election.

The former budget minister has accused Macron of overspending and being soft on crime, but her campaign has struggled to gain traction and a disastrous first major rally in February dented her credibility.

Pecresse promises to raise low- and middle-income workers’ salaries by 10 percent and to cut taxes on businesses and workers. She wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 by 2030.
Pecresse promises to raise low- and middle-income workers’ salaries by 10 percent and to cut taxes on businesses and workers. She wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 by 2030. (Reuters)

CENTRE

Emmanuel Macron, 44

In power since 2017 when he won the presidency in his first ever election, the pro-European had been enjoying a comfortable poll lead although this slipped as Le Pen gained ground.

Seen as having drifted rightwards during his term, he is promising more tax cuts, benefits reform and a raise in the retirement age if he becomes the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years.

Macron promises “full employment,” after the jobless rate decreased during his 2017-2022 term to its lowest level in a generation. He wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 and boost the minimum monthly pension.
Macron promises “full employment,” after the jobless rate decreased during his 2017-2022 term to its lowest level in a generation. He wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 and boost the minimum monthly pension. (AA)

LEFT

Anne Hidalgo, 62

The mayor of Paris took on the task of trying to revive the fortunes of the floundering Socialist Party after it was trounced in the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The soft-spoken Hidalgo appeared to be looking for a way out at the end of last year, with polls suggesting she may struggle to score even two percent.

Hidalgo, who easily won re-election as Paris's mayor in 2020, has promised a more inclusive form of governing for the nation along with across-the-board pay rises for low-income workers.
Hidalgo, who easily won re-election as Paris's mayor in 2020, has promised a more inclusive form of governing for the nation along with across-the-board pay rises for low-income workers. (Reuters)

Yannick Jadot, 54

The former Greenpeace campaigner hoped to transform the dazzling success the Greens enjoyed in local elections two years ago, saying the French are ready to embrace an environmental revolution.

But pushing what he calls pragmatic policies to combat climate change instead of the more radical solutions sought by some in his party, he has failed to put the environment at the centre of the campaign.

A fierce critic of President Macron, Jadot is a member of the European Parliament and an environmentalist.
A fierce critic of President Macron, Jadot is a member of the European Parliament and an environmentalist. (AFP)

FAR LEFT

Jean-Luc Melenchon, 70

A political veteran famous for his tirades against globalisation and the "elites", the former Trotskyist is polling the strongest among the left-wing candidates and the only one with even a remote chance of making the second round.

A forceful speaker and debater, he is gaining momentum, holding rallies across the country and even appearing simultaneously across France as a hologram.

Melenchon promises to raise France’s minimum wage and minimum pension, and lower the retirement age to 60. He wants to re-establish a wealth tax.
Melenchon promises to raise France’s minimum wage and minimum pension, and lower the retirement age to 60. He wants to re-establish a wealth tax. (Reuters)

Fabien Roussel, 52

The charismatic leader of France's Communist Party has seen his single-digit poll numbers hold firm, though his party remains a shadow of its post-war glory days.

Roussel has promised to increase taxes on companies and the highest earners as well as nationalise big banks and energy giants.

Roussel, the French Communist Party's secretary, has highlighted issues related to social justice and law and order.
Roussel, the French Communist Party's secretary, has highlighted issues related to social justice and law and order. (Reuters)

Philippe Poutou, 55

The self-styled voice of the workers and scourge of professional politicians, the former Ford factory worker insulted fellow candidates during a TV debate in 2017 and refused to take part in a joint photo.

He is standing for the New Anti-Capitalist Party with a campaign promising to disarm the police and rebuild France's public administration.

Poutou, a former trade unionist and car factory worker, has thrown his hat into the ring in what is his third bid for presidency.
Poutou, a former trade unionist and car factory worker, has thrown his hat into the ring in what is his third bid for presidency. (AFP)

Nathalie Arthaud, 52

A low-key and bookish former teacher who is standing for the Workers' Struggle party in her third tilt at the presidency.

The Trotskyist is promising a huge hike in the minimum wage, a ban on job cuts and retirement at 60, but like all the other fringe candidates made little impact on the campaign.

Arthaud's book, Communist, Revolutionary, Internationalist!, discusses the main ideas of her
Arthaud's book, Communist, Revolutionary, Internationalist!, discusses the main ideas of her "revolt and activism" — a true Marxist sharing of the exercise of power and a way of gain and profit. (AFP)

RURALIST

Jean Lassalle, 66

The eccentric MP from the Pyrenees mountains in the southwest is a former shepherd known for his strong regional accent and passionate defence of rural communities.

Viewed affectionately by many French people, he stands almost no chance in the presidential vote but will probably retain his seat in parliament if he stands in elections in June.

A member of the National Assembly representing the fourth constituency in the Pyrenees-Atlantique region from which he hails, Lassalle holds favour with voters of very rural France as a result of his roots.
A member of the National Assembly representing the fourth constituency in the Pyrenees-Atlantique region from which he hails, Lassalle holds favour with voters of very rural France as a result of his roots. (Reuters)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies