French projections: Macron centrists will retain majority

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance is expected to retain its parliamentary majority after Sunday’s first round of voting, but is likely to have far fewer seats than it did five years ago, according to projections.

Projections based on partial election results showed that, at the national level, Macron’s party and its allies won around 25% to 26% of the vote. This went neck-to-neck with estimates for a new leftist coalition made up of supporters of the far left, socialists and green parties. However, Macron’s candidates are expected to win in more districts than their left-wing rivals, giving the president a majority.

More than 6,000 candidates, aged between 18 and 92, competed on Sunday for 577 seats in France’s National Assembly in the first round of the election.

France’s two-round voting system is complex and not proportionate to national support for a party. For races that did not have a decisive winner on Sunday, up to four candidates who garnered at least 12.5% ​​support each will compete in a second round of voting on June 19.

After Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition sought an absolute majority that would allow him to implement his campaign promises, which include tax cuts and raising France’s retirement age from 62 to 65.

However, Sunday’s projection shows that Macron’s party and allies could struggle to win more than half the seats in the Assembly, far fewer than five years ago, when they won 361 seats. Research agencies estimated that Macron’s centrists could win from 255 to more than 300 seats, while the leftist coalition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon could win more than 200 seats.

Sunday’s turnout hit a record low for a parliamentary election, with less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters voting.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said “we have a week of action, a week to convince, a week to get a strong and clear majority”.

“Given the situation in the world and the war on the doorstep of Europe, we cannot risk instability,” she said, urging voters to rally around Macron’s alliance in the second round. “In the face of extremes, we will not give in.”

Mélenchon, who had hoped that the election would put him in the prime minister’s post, did not accept the preliminary projections, insisting that his coalition came first.

“Projections in the number of seats at this time do not make sense,” he said.

Mélenchon urged the French to choose their coalition candidates in the second round and “definitely reject the condemned projects of Macron’s majority”. His platform included a significant increase in the minimum wage, lowering the retirement age to 60 and putting a brake on energy prices, which are rising due to the war in Ukraine.

Although Macron beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff, France’s parliamentary election has traditionally been a tough race for far-right candidates. Rivals from other parties tend to coordinate or distance themselves to increase their chances of defeating far-right candidates in the second round.

Projections showed that Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party could win 10 to 30 seats – up from eight five years ago. If it exceeds the 15-seat limit, it can form a parliamentary group and gain greater power in the assembly.

Le Pen, who ran for re-election from his stronghold of Henin-Beaumont in northern France, praised Sunday’s results.

“Next Sunday, it is important not to let Emmanuel Macron obtain the absolute majority, which he will abuse to implement his selfish and brutal methods and impose his anti-social project,” she said.

Le Pen urged voters to vote blank or not turn up at the polls in districts that have only candidates from Macron or Mélenchon.

Outside a polling station in a working-class district of Paris, voters debated whether to support Macron’s party for the sake of soft governance and thwart extremist views, or support their opponents to ensure more political perspectives are heard. .

“When you have a parliament that is not completely aligned with the government, it allows for more interesting conversations and discussions,” said Dominique Debarre, a retired scientist. failure.”

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Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris, Daniel Cole in Marseille and Alex Turnbull in Le Touquet, France contributed.

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