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French election reporting restricted as voting starts overseas

media A sign indicates a polloing station iun Montreuil, outside Paris AFP

Voting for France's next president started on Saturday in French overseas territories with strict rules for restricting reporting by broadcasters following the end of campaigning on Friday night.

A total of 47.58 million voters can vote in this weekend's French presidential election, those in mainland France going to the polls on Sunday.

But French nationals living abroad and in territories in the Americas, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean were due to start voting earlier.

First off were the French West Indies - Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy - followed by the south American territory of Guiana, and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon - an archipelago in North America.

At 8.00pm Paris time French Polynesia will start voting.

By then it will be Sunday in the Pacific, so polling booths will open in Wallis and Fortuna and New Caledonia with the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mayotte following.

Campaigning ended, reporting restricted

The candidates and their supporters have been banned from campaigning since midnight Friday.

Electoral law also affects the media, especially broadcasters and their websites.

They are forbidden to report opinion polls, results or campaigners' statements until 8.00pm on Sunday.

The Constitutional Council has also declared it "preferable" that individuals abstain from electoral propaganda during that period.

In theory, individuals, like the news media, can be fined up to 75,000 euros for publishing results or estimates of results before polls close, although media outside France are not subject to French law and their reports of exit polls are often passed around on social media with the hashtag #RadioLondres - a practise that is technically illegal.

In any case, this year some polling stations stay open late, so no reliable estimates will be available before 7.45pm.

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