Record-low turnout expected as Macron seeks parliamentary majority

French voters shunned parliamentary elections in record numbers on Sunday for a vote crucial for newly elected President Emmanuel Macron, who will need a majority to push through his domestic agenda.

Turnout was on track to hit a record low of 47 to 47.5 percent, poll forecasts show, a trend analysts believe is favorable for the president’s centrist coalition fighting a new left-wing alliance.

The elections for the 577 seats in the National Assembly in the House of Commons are a two-round process, with the shape of the new parliament only becoming clear after the second round on 19 June.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally is also aiming to increase the number of seats in parliament from eight, with polls suggesting it could go anywhere from 19 to 44.

After a dismal performance on that vote, the French left has united behind Melenchon, a former Trotskyist who has a radically different program including lowering the retirement age, wealth taxes and raising the minimum wage by 15 percent.

– ‘Gardening instead’ –

“The very personal nature of the presidential election continues to interest people, but it overshadows all other types of voting, even the essential ones that the members of the national assembly elect,” said Mathieu Gallard of the Ipsos polling stations.

A victory by the left alliance — considered unlikely by analysts — would spell political disaster for the president by evoking the specter of an awkward “society” — where the prime minister and president come from different factions.

– ‘Can’t get anything done’ –

While Macron and his European Union allies breathed a deep sigh of relief after his solid, if unspectacular, presidential victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen, recent weeks have not brought a sense of honeymoon.

His new Disabled Minister Damien Abad has faced two rape charges – which he has vehemently denied – while new Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has yet to take effect.

Europe’s minister Clement Beaune, a close ally of Macron and a crucial influence on France’s Brexit and wider EU policy, stands in his first election and is seen in a close battle with a left-wing rival.

Otherwise, the top two candidates in a constituency, as well as any other candidate who has won the support of at least 12.5 percent of registered voters, advance to the runoff election, where the candidate with the most votes wins.

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