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France is witnessing a high turnout in the early parliamentary elections, as the far right seeks to achieve gains

France is witnessing a high turnout in the early parliamentary elections, as the far right seeks to achieve gains

Yara Nardi/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron casts his vote in the first round of parliamentary elections at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France.



CNN

France saw its highest voter turnout in decades in the first round of early elections. Parliamentary elections Getting close to the end.

The election could topple President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition and leave him to spend the remaining three years of his term in an awkward partnership with the far right.

Estimates published by the polling firm Ipsos indicate that total voter turnout on Sunday is expected to reach 65.5%, the highest level seen in France in the first round of parliamentary elections since 1997. The estimates represent an increase of 18 points compared to 2022.

Voting began at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET), as France began the process of electing its 577-member National Assembly through local contests across the country and in its overseas territories.

The elections are being held three years ahead of schedule, and three weeks after Macron’s Ennahda party was defeated by the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen’s party, in the European Parliament elections.

Minutes after the humiliating defeat, and in an apparent attempt to raise voters’ doubts, Macron said he could not ignore the message voters had sent and made the “dangerous and heavy” decision to call early elections. Early elections – France first since 1997.

Whatever the outcome, Macron has pledged to remain in office until the next French presidential election in 2027.

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The National Assembly is responsible for approving domestic laws – from pensions and taxes to immigration and education – while the president sets the country’s foreign, European and defense policy.

Yves Hermann/Reuters

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen cast her vote in the French city of Henin-Beaumont on Sunday.

When the president and the majority in parliament are from the same party, things work out. When they don’t, the government can grind to a halt—a prospect that could haunt Paris as it prepares to host the Summer Olympics next month.

France recently witnessed a government of this type – known as “coexistence” – when right-wing President Jacques Chirac called early elections and had to appoint a socialist, Lionel Jospin, as prime minister, who remained in office for five years.

The first round of voting eliminates the weaker candidates before the second round next Sunday. If a candidate wins an absolute majority of votes in the first ballot with a turnout of 25%, they win the seat. Typically, only a few MPs will be elected this way, but most will go to a second round.

Only those who receive more than 12.5% ​​of the votes of registered voters are allowed to run in the second round. This round is usually contested by two candidates, but sometimes by three or four candidates. Some candidates choose to withdraw at this stage to give their allies a better chance of winning.

Most voters will choose one of three blocs: the far-right coalition led by the French National Party, the New Popular Front, a recently formed left-wing coalition, and Macron’s centrist bloc.

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RN block headed by Jordan BardellA, the 28-year-old party leader chosen by Le Pen, has strived to burnish the image of a party historically plagued by racism and anti-Semitism that spread under the decades-long leadership of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Until recently, the possibility of forming a far-right government was unthinkable. In the past, opposition parties have entered into marriages of convenience in an attempt to prevent the National Front – under its former name, the National Front – from entering government. Now, within a few weeks, Bardella may become prime minister of France – and the youngest prime minister in Europe in more than two centuries.

On the left, a group of previously divided parties have come together to form the New Popular Front – a coalition aimed at reviving the original Popular Front that prevented the fascists from coming to power in 1936. The broad coalition includes more extreme figures such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a three-time presidential candidate and leader of the Rebellious France, as well as moderate leaders such as Raphael Glaxman of Place Public.

Meanwhile, outgoing French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal – whom Macron only appointed to his post in January – represents Macron’s centrist coalition. Attal is said to have been among the last members of Macron’s inner circle to learn of the approaching early elections.

Polls close at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) on Sunday, with full results expected early Monday.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the election polls’ opening time. It’s 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) on Sunday.