France's early parliamentary elections are seeing a strong turnout, with the right wing benefiting.


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



CNN

France saw the highest turnout in recent memory as voting neared the end of the first round of snap parliamentary elections.

The election could oust President Emmanuel Macron's central coalition and leave him to see out the remaining three years of his term in an awkward partnership with the far right.

As of 5 p.m. local time (11aET), 59.39% of voters had turned out, a 20% increase from the last set of parliamentary elections in 2022, according to data published by the French Interior Ministry.

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

The election is being held three years earlier than needed, and three weeks after Macron's Renaissance party was defeated by the far-right National Rally (RN), Marine Le Pen's party, in European Parliament elections.

Minutes after the humiliating defeat, in an apparent attempt to bluff the electorate, Macron said he could not ignore the message sent by the electorate and took the “serious, heavy” decision to call a snap election, the first in 1997. France's first after

Whatever the outcome, Macron has vowed to stay in office until France's next presidential election in 2027.

The National Assembly is responsible for passing the country's laws – from pensions and taxation 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 Heinen-Beaumont on Sunday.

When the president and the majority in parliament are from the same party, things go well. When they don't, the government could stall – a prospect that could worry Paris as it prepares to host the Summer Olympics next month.

France recently had such a government – known as “cohabitation” – when right-wing President Jacques Chirac announced snap polls and forced the appointment of a socialist, Lionel Jospin, as prime minister. Gaya, who held the post for five years.

The first round of votes eliminates weak candidates before the second round next Sunday. If a candidate wins an absolute majority of votes on the first ballot at a 25% turnout, they win the seat. Usually, only a handful of deputies will be selected this way – but most will go on to the second round.

Only those who win more than 12.5% ​​of the ballots cast by registered voters are allowed to stand in the second round. Often the competition is between two candidates, but sometimes three or four. Some candidates choose to withdraw at this stage to give their allies a better chance of victory.

Most voters will choose one of three blocs: a far-right coalition led by the RN; the New Popular Front (NFP), a recently formed left-wing coalition; And Macron's centrist ensemble.

The RN bloc is headed by Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old party leader hand-picked by Le Pen, who has sought to burnish the image of a party historically plagued by racism and antisemitism that his father's decades. Expanded under the continuing leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

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

On the left, a previously fragmented cluster of parties has recently come together to form the New Popular Front – a coalition aimed at reviving the original Popular Front that prevented the fascists from taking power in 1936. Mélenchon, three-time presidential candidate and leader of the France Envoy party, as well as moderates such as Raphael Glucksmann of the Place Publique.

Meanwhile, outgoing French Prime Minister Gabriel Atal – appointed to his post by Macron only in January – represents Macron's centrist Ensemble coalition. Atal was reportedly among the last in Macron's inner circle to know that a snap election was imminent.

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

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

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