French election: Polls show Macron and Le Pen neck-and-neck in second round

Latest polls on the French presidential election indicate that incumbent president Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen will compete in an increasingly close race in the second round of voting.

French election: Polls show Macron and Le Pen neck-and-neck in second round

Centrist president Macron’s comfortable lead had caused many to think of the French presidential election as a ‘done deal’, but in recent days the gap between him and Le Pen has dramatically narrowed, especially in a second-round run-off between the two.

The latest Harris Interactive poll shows Macron on 51.5 percent and Le Pen on 48.4 percent – a result that is within the margin of error.

Other polls on the second round have placed them at 53/47 percent and 54/46 percent.

French elections take place over two rounds and in the first round Macron still has a comfortable – albeit shrinking – lead, with most polls placing him at around 26/27 percent, with Le Pen on 22/23 and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 16/17 percent.

The remaining 9 candidates – including extreme-right challenger Eric Zemmour and centre-right Valérie Pécresse – are all polling at under 10 percent.

The two top scoring candidates from the first round go through to a second round, and French people head back to the polls two weeks later to pick one of the two to become the next president of France.

It has long been projected that Macron and Le Pen will be the second round contenders, in a re-run of their 2017 battle.

Until recently all polls predicted a fairly comfortable win for Macron in a second round with Le Pen, but in recent days, the gap between the two has been narrowing, until the latest poll, with the 51/48 result. However, many political analysts say that second-round polls are only really reliable once the first round is over.

The first round of voting takes place on Sunday, April 10th, with round two following on April 24th.

You can find full discussion on the polls and how accurate they are on The Local’s podcast, Talking France – click HERE to listen to the latest episode.

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.