French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday faced the challenge of a new left alliance in parliamentary elections that could see his centrist coalition lose an absolute majority.
The vote will be decisive for Macron’s second-term agenda following his re-election in April, with the 44-year-old needing a majority to secure the promised tax cuts and welfare reform and raise the retirement age.
Polls have suggested that his “Together” coalition is poised to be the largest party in the next National Assembly, but perhaps short of the 289 seats needed for a majority.
The new left coalition NUPES hopes to make a surprise, with the red-green collective vowing to block Macron’s agenda after joining behind 70-year-old figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Turnout, considered crucial for the outcome of the vote, was 38.11 percent three hours to go, down from 39.42 percent in the first round on June 12 at the same stage, albeit on the rise. compared to 35.33 percent recorded in 2017, the interior ministry said.
Meanwhile, the polling companies predicted that abstention rates would be between 53.5% and 54%, higher than the 52.5% recorded in the first round.
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Analysts had said that a higher than expected turnout would most likely favor NUPES, which focuses on the vote of young people and the working classes.
Failing to live up to the majority would force Macron to forge complicated alliances with other parties over the right to force through legislation.
The nightmare scenario for the president – seen as unlikely though not impossible – would be the left winning the majority and Melenchon leading the government.
“The vote is extremely open and it would be wrong to say that things are resolved one way or another,” Melenchon told reporters on Friday during the last leg of the election campaign in Paris.
Macron was disappointed last weekend after round one joined and NUPES heads up in the popular vote around 26%.
Voting in the first round has served to reduce candidates in most of the country’s 577 constituencies to two finalists who will go head-to-head on Sunday.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is also aiming for big gains for her National Rally party, which only had eight seats in the outgoing parliament.
Macron voted in the northern seaside town of Le Touquet along with his wife Brigitte, while Melenchon voted in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
The contest between Together and NUPES has gotten tougher in the past week, with Macron’s allies trying to paint their main opponents as dangerous left-wing extremists.
Senior MP Christophe Castaner accused Melenchon of wanting a “Soviet revolution”, while Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire called him a “French (Hugo) Chavez” named after the late Venezuelan autocrat.
Macron traveled to Ukraine last week, hoping to remind voters of his foreign policy credentials and one of Melenchon’s perceived weaknesses: his anti-NATO and anti-EU views in wartime Europe.
As president, he would retain control of foreign and defense policy regardless of the outcome, but his internal agenda would be thwarted if his party lost control of parliament.
Before embarking on the trip, Macron had called on voters to hand over a “solid majority” to his coalition, adding “nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to world disorder”.
Melenchon promised a break from “30 years of neoliberalism” – which means free market capitalism – and promised increases in minimum wages and public spending, as well as nationalizations.
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It’s been 20 years since France last had a president and prime minister from several parties, when right-wing Jacques Chirac had to work with a socialist-dominated parliament under Premier Lionel Jospin.
A latest barrage of polls on Friday suggested that Macron Together allies were on track for 255-305 seats on Sunday, with only the upper end of that range having a majority of over 289.
“I have seen that 60-70 percent of young people don’t vote. I find it incredible… we can change things, ”said Lena Laurent, a film industry producer, of the low turnout.
On the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where the vote is held a day early, Justine Benin was defeated on Saturday by NUPES candidate Christian Baptiste, a defeat that jeopardizes her role in the government as Secretary of State for the Sea. .
On the mainland, French Minister for Europe Clement Beaune and Environment Minister Amelie de Montchalin are facing tough challenges in their constituencies, with both chances of exiting the government if defeated.