France holds legislative elections in vital test for Macron

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title=wpil_keyword_linkPresident Emmanuel Macron seeks to secure his majority amid growing threat from a leftist coalition. (AP Photo/Michel Pinler, File)” title=”FILE – French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, center, poses for a photo before a press conference in Aulnoy-Lez-Valenciennes, northern France, Friday, June 3, 2022. French voters were choosing the lawmakers in a parliamentary election on Sunday June December 12, 2022, as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to secure his majority amid growing threat from a leftist coalition. (AP Photo/Michel Pinler, File)” loading=”lazy”/>

FILE – French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, center, poses for a photo before a press conference in Aulnoy-Lez-Valenciennes, northern France, Friday, June 3, 2022. French voters were choosing the lawmakers in a parliamentary election on Sunday June December 12, 2022, as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to secure his majority amid growing threat from a leftist coalition. (AP Photo/Michel Pinler, File)

PA

French voters choose lawmakers in legislative elections on Sunday as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to secure his majority amid growing threat from a leftist coalition.

More than 6,000 candidates, aged 18 to 92, are contesting 577 seats in the National Assembly in the first round of the election. Those who receive the most votes will advance to the deciding second round on June 19.

Following Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition is 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.

But the latest opinion polls suggest Macron and his allies may struggle to win more than half the parliamentary seats. A government with a large, but not absolute, majority would still be able to govern, but only by negotiating with legislators.

The main opposition force appears to be a newly created coalition of leftists, greens and communists led by far-left figure Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Mélenchon urged voters to give his coalition a majority and thus force Macron to appoint him prime minister, which would cause a situation called “cohabitation”.

The leftists’ platform includes a significant increase in the minimum wage, lowering the retirement age to 60 and freezing energy prices.

Although Mélenchon’s coalition could win more than 200 seats, current projections leave little chance for the left to win a majority. Macron and his allies are expected to win between 260 and 320 seats, according to the latest polls.

The two-round voting system is complex and not commensurate with national support for a party. Legislators are elected by district.

Legislative elections are traditionally a tough race for France’s far-right candidates, as rivals tend to drop out in the second round to improve another candidate’s chances.

Led by Marine Le Pen, beaten by Macron in the presidential election, the 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.

Results may also be affected by an expected record high turnout. Pollsters say less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters are expected to vote.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. (06:00 GMT; 2:00 a.m. EDT) and will close at 6:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. GMT; 12:00 p.m.) in most of France, with the exception of some closing two hours later in major cities.

The National Assembly has the last word over the Senate in the voting of laws.

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