France votes, Macron faces tough battle for control of parliament

  • Voting projections expected at 6:00 p.m. GMT
  • Macron needs 289 seats for absolute majority in parliament
  • Pollsters say it could fail as smaller parties make gains
  • A minister already eliminated in a vote abroad

PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) – Voting was underway in France on Sunday in legislative elections that could deprive newly re-elected centrist President Emmanuel Macron of the absolute majority he needs to govern with a free hand.

First projections were expected at 8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT) of the ballot which could change the face of French politics.

Turnout at midday was a little higher – at 18.99% – than at the same time in a first round of voting last Sunday and than in 2017, when it reached just 18, 43% and 17.75% respectively.

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Macron won a second term in presidential elections in April. If Sunday’s vote does not give his side an outright majority, it would open a period of uncertainty that could be resolved by a degree of power-sharing between parties unheard of in France in recent decades – or lead to political paralysis and repeated legislative elections. line. Read more

Pollsters predict Macron’s camp will end up with the most seats, but say it is by no means guaranteed to reach the 289 threshold for an outright majority.

Opinion polls also see the far right likely to score its biggest parliamentary success in decades, while a broad left-green alliance could emerge as the biggest opposition group and the Tories find themselves as the kingmakers.

In the town of Sèvres, just outside Paris, where light rain brought some relief after a major heatwave hit France on Saturday, some voters said they were driven by environmental concerns to vote for the left alliance Nupes.

“Over the past 5 years, the presidential majority has not been able to meet the challenges of climate change. The current heat wave makes it even more desirable to support environmental projects,” Leonard Doco, a student in France, told Reuters. 21 year old cinema. .

Others said they did not trust left-wing bloc leader instigator Jean-Luc Melenchon, who campaigned under the slogan ‘Elect me Prime Minister’ and vows to push the age from retirement age 60 to 60, to freeze prices and to prohibit companies from laying off workers if they pay dividends.

“Mélenchon is a hypocrite. He makes promises that don’t keep. Retiring at 60 is impossible,” said Brigitte Desrez, 83, a retired dance teacher, who voted for Macron’s party. .

Overnight, the results from France’s overseas departments brought bad news for Macron, with his maritime affairs minister losing in his Caribbean constituency. About 15 government ministers are running in this election and Macron has said they will have to resign if they lose.

REJUVENATED LEFT

Macron is seeking to raise the retirement age and pursue his pro-business agenda and further European Union integration.

After electing a president, French voters have traditionally used the legislative polls that follow a few weeks later to grant him a comfortable parliamentary majority – with François Mitterrand in 1988 a rare exception.

Macron and his allies could still achieve this.

But the rejuvenated left faces a tough challenge, as inflation pushes cost-of-living concerns to the forefront of many voters’ minds.

If Macron and his allies miss an outright majority by just a few seats, they could be tempted to poach center-right or conservative lawmakers, officials from those parties have said.

If they miss it by a larger margin, they could either seek an alliance with the Conservatives or lead a minority government that will have to negotiate laws with other parties on a case-by-case basis.

Even if Macron’s camp wins an outright majority, it’s likely thanks to his former prime minister, Edouard Philippe, who will demand more to have a say in what the government does.

Regardless of Sunday’s vote, the president is likely entering a new period where he will have to find more compromise, after five years of unchallenged control since his first election in 2017.

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Additional reporting by Michel Rose Writing by Ingrid Melander Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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