French election enters final stages, voter turnout high

French voters headed to the polls on Sunday to cast their final ballots in parliamentary elections that could force President Emmanuel Macron to govern with his far-right opponents or lead to chronic political unrest just weeks before the Paris Summer Olympics.

Turnout at 5pm local time was around 59.71%, the highest in the past 20 years, the Ministry of Interior said. SaidThat’s significantly higher than the 38.11% turnout in the last parliamentary elections in 2022, and reflects persistent interest in the vote that will determine the future of Macron’s second term.

Macron last month called general elections for the 577-seat National Assembly, France’s lower house and most important parliament, a risky gamble that appeared to nearly backfire in the first round of voting last week.

Polling stations on Sunday close at 6pm local time, but no later than 8pm in major cities. National seat projections by pollsters based on preliminary results are due to be released just after 8pm. Official Results They come in all night long.

Some points to note are:

That becomes the key question.

The anti-immigration nationalist Rally National party dominated the first round of voting, with the left-wing coalition New Popular Front coming in second, while Macron’s party and its allies came in third.

76 seats were directly elected – roughly half were won by the National Coalition – but the rest went to a runoff election.

The race was a three-way contest in more than 300 constituencies, but more than 200 candidates from left-wing parties and Macron’s centrist coalition withdrew in an attempt to avoid splitting the vote and preventing a far-right victory.

This would make it more difficult, though not impossible, for the National Coalition and its allies to win an absolute majority.

largely French Pollster The party and its allies are expected to win between 175 and 240 seats, short of the 289 required for an absolute majority. But if the Rally National and its allies secure an absolute majority they would almost certainly be able to form a government, and Macron, who plans to stay in power, would have to work with them.

What France is calling “coexistence” could end up being a controversial arrangement in which Macron becomes president and Jordan Bardelan, leader of the National Rally party, becomes prime minister.

The French prime minister and cabinet are responsible to the Chamber of Deputies and set national policy, but they are appointed by the president, who has broad executive powers and is directly elected by the people.

Typically, the president and prime minister are politically aligned. (France has presidential and parliamentary elections within a few weeks of each other every five years, making it likely that voters will support the same party twice.) But when the president and the National Assembly are at odds, the president has little choice but to appoint a prime minister from the opposing party or someone that lawmakers will not defeat in a vote of no confidence.

The coexistence of mainstream left and conservative leaders also occurred from 1986 to 1988, 1993 to 1995 and 1997 to 2002. But the coexistence of the pro-European centrist Mr Macron and the Eurosceptic nationalist Mr Bardella would be unprecedented.

Polls suggest a likely scenario is that the lower house will be roughly divided into three factions with competing policy agendas and, in some cases, deep hostility towards one another: the Rally National, the New Popular Front and a shrunken centrist coalition including Macron’s Renaissance party.

As things stand, Macron’s options are limited, as no side seems able to find enough partners to form a majority.

“French political culture does not encourage compromise,” said Samy Benzina, a professor of public law at the University of Poitiers, noting that the French system is designed to produce “clear majorities that can govern themselves.”

“This is the first time in the Fifth Republic that we cannot form a government due to lack of a majority,” he said.

Some analysts and politicians have suggested a broad coalition government, ranging from the Greens to moderate conservatives, could be the likely outcome, but France is not accustomed to coalition governments and several political leaders have dismissed the idea.

Another possibility is a caretaker government to handle day-to-day affairs until a political breakthrough is found, but this too would be a departure from French tradition.

If none of these solutions work, the country could be mired in months of political deadlock.

One of the shortest election campaigns in modern French history was clouded by tension, racist incidents and violence.

A television news program Couple supporting national rally filmed hurling abuse at black neighbourThe TV presenter, who is of North African descent, told her to “go to the doghouse.” Revealed Racist letters received at home. Avignon bakery It was burned and covered in homophobic and racist tags.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said on Friday that more than 50 people, including candidates, their representatives and supporters, had been subjected to “physical assaults” during the election campaign.

There are fears that post-election protests could turn violent, and authorities have deployed around 30,000 security forces across the country, including around 5,000 in the Paris area, to tackle potential unrest.

Katherine Porter Contributed report.

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