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French hard left set to make big gains in first-round parliamentary vote

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition is running neck and neck with a new left-wing group in the first round of the country’s parliamentary election held Sunday, early projections showed.

According to the Ipsos polling agency, the left-wing NUPES alliance backed by firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Macron’s Ensemble! coalition each won 25.2 percent of the vote to elect representatives to the National Assembly, the parliament’s lower chamber.

But polls leading up to the vote suggested that a strong showing for the left in the first round would not necessarily translate into seats as Macron and his allies look set to benefit in the second vote next Sunday under the two-round system, which generally favors more centrist candidates.

A candidate can win in the first round if they receive at least half the share of votes cast, as well as the votes of at least a quarter of registered voters in their constituency. If not, the candidate who gets the most votes in the second-round runoff becomes an MP.

According to Ipsos, Macron’s coalition would get between 255 to 295 seats after the second round, compared to only 150 to 190 for NUPES. That would still mark a significant rebalancing of power in the National Assembly, since Macron’s allies currently have 345 seats in the outgoing chamber. A majority would be 289 seats; any number lower than that for the ruling coalition would mean Macron would struggle to push through legislation and major reforms such as for the pension system.

Though far-right leader Marine Le Pen won 39 percent of the vote in the second round of the presidential election in April, her party only secured 18.9 percent of the vote in the parliamentary election, according to the projections.

Voter turnout also appears to have hit a record low for the parliamentary elections with just 39 percent participation as of 5 p.m. local time, according to interior ministry figures. Low turnout means fewer candidates will qualify for the second round as candidates must receive votes from at least 12.5 percent of registered voters to continue.  

The final results of the first round are expected later on Sunday.

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