French polling stations open for second round of parliamentary elections

France  ReutersEric Gaillard
JUN 19, 2022 LISTEN
© Reuters/Eric Gaillard

Polling stations opened in mainland France Sunday for the second round of parliamentary elections, with recently re-elected President Emmanuel Macron's second-term agenda on the line.

Forecasters predict a re-run of last week's low turnout at polling stations, which opened at 8:00 am in mainland France, voters in overseas territories having cast ballots earlier in the weekend.

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 in order to push through promised tax cuts and welfare reform and raise the retirement age.

Projections from polling firms suggest his "Ensemble" (Together) coalition is on course to be the biggest party in the next National Assembly, but possibly short of the 289 seats needed for a majority.

New left-wing coalition NUPES is hoping to spring a surprise, with the red-green collective promising to block Macron's agenda after uniting behind 70-year-old figurehead Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

"The vote is extremely open and it would be improper to say that things are settled one way or the other," Mélenchon told reporters Friday during a final campaign stop in Paris.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is also eyeing major gains for her National Rally party, which had just eight seats in the outgoing parliament.

Macron was left disappointed by results last weekend after a first round of voting saw Together and NUPES finish neck-and-neck on around 26 percent.

The first-round vote served to whittle down candidates in most of the country's 577 constituencies to two finalists who will go head-to-head Sunday.

The election caps an intense two-month sequence to elect a new president and parliament, with voter fatigue seen as one of the reasons for what is expected to be record-low turnout Sunday.

Observers will be keeping a close eye on turnout figures following a historically low level last week of just 47.5 percent.

Figures will be given throughout the day by the interior ministry and a higher-than-expected turnout would most likely favour NUPES, which is banking on young people and the working classes voting.

In France's Caribbean island of Guadeloupe -- where the poll is held a day early -- Justine Benin was defeated by NUPES candidate Christian Baptiste Saturday, a loss that jeopardises her role in the government as Secretary of State for Sea.

A government reshuffle is expected after the election.

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