Long lines in Montreal as French expats head to the polls

The pivotal, and unpredictable, presidential election in France is drawing thousands of eligible voters to polling stations in Quebec.

Thousands put up with hours-long wait to cast vote for next president

French expats wait in line to vote in Montreal on Saturday. France goes to the polls on Sunday for the first round of the 2017 French presidential election. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The pivotal, and unpredictable, presidential election in France is drawing thousands of eligible voters to polling stations in Quebec.

Voters in France head to the polls on Sunday. But for citizens outside the country, Saturday was their last chance to cast a ballot for the country's next president. 

In Montreal, French citizens lined up for hours outside a private school in Outremont. Of the 85,000 eligible French voters in Canada, the vast majority of them were registered to vote here.

Many of those in line expressed fears that Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant Front National, could win the election. 

"I'm a bit worried right now about what's going on in France," said Manon Harsigny, who waited two hours to cast her vote.

"I know the far right is gaining more and more power and I really, really need to express my opinion and I don't want to feel guilty after the election."

Tight race

Le Pen is among 11 candidates in the running for the presidency. The winner is required to capture more than 50 per cent of the vote, meaning a run-off election with the two highest vote-getters will likely be held next month. 

Recent polls suggest Le Pen could make the run-off, along with Emmanuel Macron, who has campaigned on a centrist platform. 

But not far behind the front-runners are the establishment conservative François Fillion and the leftist outsider Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Fillion, who represents the Republican Party, looked poised at one point to make the second round, but his campaign was hampered by allegations he used public money to pay his wife and children for work they never did.

Candidates for the 2017 presidential election (LtoR) Francois Fillon, member of the Republicans, Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Parti de Gauche, Marine Le Pen, Front National (FN). (Patrick Kovarik/Pool/Reuters)

Since the scandal broke, though, he has managed to claw his way back into contention. 

As for Mélenchon, his campaign was off the radar until a spirited debate performance saw him climb to within a stone's throw of the leaders. His leftist brand of populism has some calling him the French Bernie Sanders. 

"For me the worst is any kind of extreme," said Lisa Di Jorio, as she waited in a line that stretched at least eight blocks. 

"That can be Marine Le Pen but it can also be the extreme opposite of that. The extreme left is not any better."

Around 10,000 voters were also registered at a polling station in Quebec City, which was expected to draw French citizens from as far as Trois-Rivières and Saguenay.

With files from Sarah Leavitt