Macron’s majority on the line as France holds parliamentary elections

French voters choose lawmakers in parliamentary elections on Sunday, as President Emmanuel Macron wants to secure his majority amid threats from a left-wing coalition.

More than 6,000 candidates, ranging in age from 18 to 92, will compete for 577 seats in the National Assembly in the first round of the election. Those who receive the most votes will advance to the deciding second round on June 19.

Following Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition is aiming for an absolute majority that would allow it to deliver on its campaign promises, including tax cuts and raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.

But the latest polls suggest Macron and his allies may struggle to win more than half of the parliament seats. A government with a large, but not an absolute majority, could still rule, but only by negotiating with lawmakers.

The main opposition force appears to be a newly formed coalition of leftists, greens and communists led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Mélenchon urged voters to give his coalition a majority, thereby forcing Macron to appoint him as prime minister, leading to a situation dubbed “cohabitation”.

The coalition’s platform includes a significant increase in the minimum wage, a lowering of the retirement age to 60 and a fix in energy prices.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon will give a speech on Friday in Marseille, southern France. Mélenchon leads a newly formed coalition of leftists, greens and communists. (Daniel Cole/The Associated Press)

Record low turnout expected

The two-round voting system is complex and disproportionate to national support for a party. Legislators are elected by district.

Parliamentary elections have traditionally been a tough race for France’s far-right candidates, as rivals tend to sideline in the second round to boost another candidate’s chances.

Led by Marine Le Pen, who lost to Macron in the presidential election, the National Rally hopes to do better than five years ago when it won eight seats. With at least 15 seats, the far right would be allowed to form a parliamentary group and gain more powers in the assembly.

Le Pen is herself a candidate for re-election in her stronghold Henin-Beaumont, in northern France.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint press conference with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala on Tuesday in Paris. Macron’s centrist coalition is aiming for an absolute majority, but latest polls suggest that could be a tall order. (Francois Mori/The Associated Press)

The results could also be influenced by an expected record-low turnout. According to pollsters, less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters are expected to vote.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 AM local time (0600 GMT) in most of France and closed at 6:00 PM local time (1600 GMT), except in major cities two hours later.

The National Assembly has the final say on the Senate when it comes to voting in laws.