French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition is expected to hold a majority in parliament after the first round of voting, according to projections on Sunday.
Predictions based on partial election results show that at the national level, Macron’s party and its allies won around 25-26% of the vote. That has pitted them against a new left-wing coalition of Socialists and hardline leftists. However, Macron’s candidates are projected to win more districts than their leftist rivals, giving the president a majority.
More than 6,000 candidates, ranging from 18 to 92, contested Sunday for 577 seats in the French National Assembly in the first round of the election.
The two-round voting system is complex and disproportionate to national support for one party. As for the French races without a decisive winner on Sunday, up to four candidates receiving at least 12.5% support will compete in a second round of voting on June 19.
Consumer concerns about rising inflation dominated the campaign but voter enthusiasm remained muted. That was reflected in Sunday’s turnout, showing that less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters cast their ballots.
Leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who had hoped the election would land him prime minister, was among a small number of voters when he cast a ballot in Marseille, a southern port city.
On the opposite coast of France, a small crowd gathered to watch Macron as he went to vote in the British Channel resort town of Le Touquet.
After Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition is looking for an absolute majority to be able to deliver on his campaign promises, including cutting taxes and raising France’s retirement age from 62 to 65.
However, Sunday’s forecast suggests that Macron’s party and its allies may struggle to win more than half of the seats in Parliament this time around. A government with a large but not absolute majority could still rule, but would have to seek support from opposition legislators.
Polling agencies estimate that Macron’s centrists could win between 255 and more than 300 seats, while Melenchon’s left-wing coalition could win more than 200. Congress has the final say over the Senate when it comes to laws.
Melenchon’s background includes a substantial minimum wage increase, lowering the retirement age to 60, and locking in energy prices, which have skyrocketed due to the war in Ukraine. He is an anti-globalizer who has called on France to withdraw from NATO and “disobey” EU rules.
Although Macron defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential race, France’s parliamentary elections have traditionally been an uphill race for far-right candidates. Opponents from other parties tend to coordinate or move aside to increase their chances of defeating far-right candidates in the second round of voting.
Le Pen’s far-right National Rally hopes to do better than it did five years ago, when it won eight seats. With at least 15 seats, the far right will be allowed to form parliamentary groups and gain greater power in parliament.
Le Pen herself is also a candidate for re-election in the stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, in northern France, where she voted on Sunday.
Outside a polling station in a working-class neighborhood in Paris, voters debated whether to support Macron’s party for the sake of smooth governance and holding extremist views, or in favor of Macron’s party. his opponents to ensure that more political views are heard.
Retired scientist Dominique Debarre said: “When you have a parliament that is not entirely aligned with government, that allows for more interesting conversations and discussions. “But on the other hand, cohabitation (a divisive political situation) is in some way always a sign of failure.”
Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris, Daniel Cole in Marseille and Alex Turnbull in Le Touquet, France were in attendance.