PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance is expected to retain its parliamentary majority after the first round of voting, according to projections on Sunday.
Projections based on partial election results showed that nationally, Macron’s party and its allies won around 25-26% of the vote. This put them neck and neck with a new left-wing coalition made up of supporters of the far left, socialists and greens. Still, Macron’s candidates are expected to win in more constituencies than their leftist rivals, giving the president a majority.
More than 6,000 candidates, ranging in age from 18 to 92, were running for 577 seats in the French National Assembly in the first round of the election on Sunday.
The two-round voting system is complex and not commensurate with national support for a party. For the French races that did not have a decisive winner on Sunday, up to four candidates who obtain at least 12.5% support will face each other 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, which showed less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters had voted.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who hoped the election would propel him to the post of prime minister, was only among a small number of voters as he cast his ballot in Marseille, a southern port city.
On the opposite coast of France, a small crowd gathered to watch Macron as he arrived to vote in the English Channel resort town of Le Touquet.
After Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition was seeking an outright majority that would allow him to implement his campaign promises, including tax cuts and raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.
Still, Sunday’s projection shows the party and Macron’s allies could struggle to secure more than half of the assembly seats this time around. A government with a large but not absolute majority would still be able to govern, but would have to seek the support of opposition legislators.
Polling agencies have estimated that Macron’s centrists could win 255 to more than 300 seats, while Mélenchon’s left-wing coalition could win more than 200 seats. The National Assembly has the last word over the Senate in the voting of laws.
Mélenchon’s platform includes a significant increase in the minimum wage, lowering the retirement age to 60 and freezing energy prices, which have soared due to the war in Ukraine. He is an anti-globalization arsonist who has called on France to withdraw from NATO and “disobey” EU rules.
Even though Macron beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential run-off, France’s legislative elections are traditionally a tough race for far-right candidates. Rivals from other parties tend to coordinate or withdraw to increase the chances of defeating far-right candidates in the second ballot.
Le Pen’s far-right National Rally hopes to do better than five years ago, when it won eight seats. With at least 15 seats, the far right would be allowed to form a parliamentary group and gain more power in the assembly.
Le Pen herself is a candidate for re-election in her stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont, in northern France, where she voted on Sunday.
Outside a polling station in a working-class district of Paris, voters debated whether to back Macron’s party in the interest of good governance and ward off extremist views, or back his opponents for s ensuring that more political perspectives are heard.
“When you have a parliament that’s not completely aligned with the government, it allows for more interesting conversations and discussions,” said retired scientist Dominique Debarre. “But on the other hand, cohabitation (a divided political situation) is always somehow a sign of failure.”
Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris, Daniel Cole in Marseille and Alex Turnbull in Le Touquet, France contributed.