PARIS (AP) -- Whatever the result of France's presidential election, the choice will resonate far beyond France's borders, from extremist strongholds in Syria to Hong Kong trading floors and the halls of the U.N. Security Council.

It could be bigger than Brexit - the future of Europe is at stake as disenchanted French voters choose between untested centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in Sunday's presidential runoff.

Here are a few reasons why this race matters:


Financial markets have watched this election with exceptional attention, jittery over Le Pen's dreams of pulling France out of the European Union and its shared euro currency. The market mood has buoyed in recent days as polls show the chance of a Le Pen victory receding, but the prospect of a "Frexit" would be dire.

Far worse than Britain's exit from the European Union, France's departure from either the EU or the euro could spell death for the idea of European economic unity, which was borne from the bloodshed of World War II. France is a founding member of the EU, and its main driver along with former rival Germany.

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