PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance is expected to retain its parliamentary majority after the first round of voting, according to forecasts released on Sunday.
Projections based on partial election results showed Macron’s party and its allies got about 25-26% of the vote at the national level. That left them neck and neck with a new left-wing coalition made up of far-left, socialists and Green party supporters. Still, Macron’s candidates are expected to win in a greater number of districts than their left-wing rivals, giving the president a majority.
More than 6,000 candidates, ranging from 18 to 92, competed for 577 seats in the French National Assembly on Sunday in the first round of the election.
The two-round voting system is complex and disproportionate to national support for a party. For French races that did not have a deciding winner on Sunday, up to four candidates who receive at least 12.5% support will compete in a second round of voting on June 19.
Consumer concerns about rising inflation have dominated the campaign, but voter enthusiasm has been dampened. That was reflected in Sunday’s turnout, which showed that less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters had voted.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had hoped the election would throw him to the post of prime minister, was one of the few voters when he cast his vote 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 seaside town of Le Touquet.
After Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition sought an absolute majority that would allow it to deliver on its campaign promises, including tax cuts and raising the French retirement age from 62 to 65.
But Sunday’s projection shows Macron’s party and allies could struggle to get more than half of the seats in the General Assembly this time around. A government with a large but not absolute majority could still rule, but would have to seek support from opposition lawmakers.
Opinion bureaus estimate that Macron’s centrists could win from 255 to more than 300 seats, while Mélenchon’s left-wing coalition could win more than 200 seats. The National Assembly has the final say on the Senate when it comes to voting in laws.
Mélenchon’s platform includes a significant increase in the minimum wage, lowering the retirement age to 60 and holding on to energy prices, which have soared as a result of the war in Ukraine. He is an anti-globalization brand that has called on France to withdraw from NATO and “disobey” EU rules.
Although Macron defeated far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, the French parliamentary election has traditionally been a tough race for far-right candidates. Rivals from other parties tend to coordinate or step aside to increase the chances of beating far-right candidates on the second ballot.
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 would be allowed to form a parliamentary group and gain more powers in the assembly.
Le Pen is herself a candidate for re-election in her stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, in northern France, where she cast her vote on Sunday.
Outside a polling station in a working-class district of Paris, voters debated whether to support Macron’s party for the sake of smooth governance and fend off extremist views, or to back his opponents to ensure more political perspectives are heard.
“Having a parliament that’s not quite aligned with the government allows for more interesting conversations and discussions,” said Dominique Debarre, retired scientist. “But on the other hand, cohabitation (a split 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.