Amid heightened security, French voters began casting ballots for their next president Sunday in a first-round poll that’s being seen as a litmus test for the future of Europe and the spread of populism around the world. More than 50,000 police and gendarmes were deployed to protect 66,000 polling stations for the election, which comes just three days after a deadly attack on Paris’s famed Champs-Elysees Avenue in which a police officer and a gunman were slain.

The presidential poll has consequences for the future of the European Union, for France’s millions of Muslims and for world financial markets. It’s also the first ever to be held while France is under a state of emergency, put in place since the November 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. Pre-election polls suggest far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead. MORE