French voters have started casting ballots for the presidential election in a tense first-round poll that is seen as a test for the spread of populism around the world. More than 60,000 polling stations opened on Sunday for voters who will choose between 11 candidates in the most unpredictable election in generations. Polling stations open in Paris. (AP/Bertrand Combaldieu)
Opinion polls point to a tight race among the four top contenders vying to get into the May 7 presidential run-off that will decide who becomes France s next head of state. Polls suggest far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead. However, conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister, appeared to be closing the gap, as was far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
A voting machine displays the names of the 11 candidates. (AP/Bertrand Combaldieu) France s 10% unemployment rate, its struggling economy and security issues topped concerns for the 47 million eligible voters. If Ms Le Pen or Mr Melenchon win a spot in the run-off, it will be seen as a victory for the rising wave of populism reflected by the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit.
People line up before casting their vote. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)
Mr Macron and Mr Fillon are committed to European unity and would reform employment rules.
Early voting began on Saturday in France s overseas territories.
A private security firm would be a “negative” influence on Harlow, according to town experts. A pub manager was one of several to say he did not want to see Harlow follow the lead of Frinton, where hundreds of residents pay a firm to patrol their streets after their nearest police station closed. AGS Security is funded by 300 people paying 2 a week to drive around the town each night between 7pm and 7am as a deterrent to unruly behaviour. They have no powers and residents still phone 999 in an emergency . The patrol is specifically designed to make residents feel safer at night.
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Gary Bellamy, manager of The Greyhound pub, Broadley Road, Harlow, said: “We never get a lot of trouble but if there is any I would rather call the police directly.
“If anyone did cause trouble they would be barred for good . If everybody barred people who cause trouble they would have nowhere to go. “That’s what needs to be done.”
He added: “If we do that have a private firm we take power from the Government into private hands . They are already being lined up to go private. “I am not keen to see it at all.”
Harlow Street Pastors already provide a calming influence in the town centre and around Harlow’s hatches after dark. READ MORE: ‘Changing’ Harlow mall will thrive, predicts Harvey Centre boss3
Owen Jenkins, former coordinator of the group and who still volunteers, said: “I would not favour something similar coming to Harlow.
“My personal view is that when there is an inclination of keeping order they tend to get heavy handed. “We avoid trouble and try and prevent trouble from happening . We are not seen as a threat and we do not get any abuse from people.
“If they security see a fight they will try and break it up or become involved . We will contact the police immediately.” Frinton adopted the system in 2015 . In May last year the BBC reported Frinton residents had raised concerns about patrols door knocking late at night . AGS apologised. Harlow councillor Maggie Hulcoop said: “The PCSOs do a wonderful job, they give a strong presence.
“I would not want a private security firm in Harlow, they would not do the job . There powers are limited . Would young people respect them or ignore them?
“It leaves a lot to be desired .
It would not make me feel very secure .
I think that money should be going to the police.”
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A FOOTBALL club is to increase security after a break-in attempt over the Easter weekend.
The ‘mindless’ vandals damaged eight windows in an attempt to get into Haslingden St Mary’s FC club house on Saturday night.
Apart from smashing a clock and picking up a few empty water bottles, they left empty-handed.
Club bosses said they were now planning to brick up the windows and install extra CCTV in a bid to deter future attempts.
Anthony Fitzjohn, secretary of the Shore Street club, said: “It was an attempted break-in . Thankfully they did not get in.
“They came round and tried all eight windows but we have got bars across them.
“Every window has been badly damaged.”
The windows are made of perspex so the attempted thieves smashed round the outside and pushed them open – damaging them beyond repair.
“They managed to put their hands in and took a clock and empty water bottles . The clock had been smashed on the floor,” he said.
“It is mindless really.”
He said the attempt had caused a couple of thousand pounds worth of damage and there were now plans to replace the windows with bricks.
“We will have to increase our security after this .
That is all we can do – keep chipping away.
“We will have to remove the windows and brick them up which is another expense . We just can’t risk it anymore.
“We are very fortunate . We had a narrow escape really . It was all set up for a christening on Sunday and that was able to go ahead as normal thankfully.”
Mr Fitzjohn said the club had been broken into in the past, however there have been no recent incidents.
“We used to have roof lights but we did away with those . It was shocking .
They would come in and drop down 15 to 18ft and just trash the place and take alcohol from the bar.
“We have CCTV but it is inside and on the front so we are looking at getting more cameras.”
He added it was business as usual with functions going ahead and the first team, who are currently top of division one in the West Lancs league, playing a match on Easter Monday.