France enters final stage of nail-biting general election
France is entering the final stages of a nail-biting general election as voting stations close and counting of votes begins.
Early signs are that France might possibly avoid a far-right victory with turnout in this crucial election tipped to be around the 80 percent mark.
Fears that a high abstentions could benefit the Marine Le Pen of the National Front appear to have been abated so far.
There were also concerns that a terror attack in Paris just two days before the election could also provide the far-right candidate with a boost.
However, the first round of polling appears to show that centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen could enter the second round of voting, which will decide who will become France's next president.
By late afternoon, turnout was at 69.42 percent, according to official data, one of its highest levels in 40 years.
This is still one percentage point lower than at the same point in the 2012 election, but polling booths will stay open an hour longer outside the main cities closing at 5pm GMT.
Four polling groups forecast the abstention level at 19-22 percent, which would put final turnout between 78 and 81 percent.
For the first round of the last presidential election in 2012, the abstention rate was 20.52 when Socialist candidate Francois Hollande beat conservative rival Nicolas Sarkozy.